October 30, 2009

Document on Married Love and Reproductive Technology on Agenda for U.S. Bishops' November Meeting

WASHINGTON — A proposed document from the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities looks at the relationship between sex and procreation and the moral issues surrounding various technologies for treating infertility, including in vitro fertilization, embryo adoption and surrogacy. The document,"Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology," will be debated and voted on by the full body of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at their November 16-19 meeting in Baltimore.

“The Church has compassion for couples suffering from infertility and wants to be of real help to them," explains the draft document."At the same time, some ‘reproductive technologies’ are not legitimate ways to solve those problems. We bishops of the United States offer this reflection to explain why. We also offer it to provide hope — real hope that couples can fulfill their procreative potential and build a family while fully respecting God’s design for their marriage and for the gift of children."

“Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology" draws on Church teaching, including Vatican documents Donum Vitae (1987), Evangelium Vitae (1995) and Dignitas Personae (2008), the last of which was released during the development of the bishops’ document. It includes questions and answers on the issue and testimony from couples who followed the Church’s teaching, and offers pastoral guidance and encouragement for couples who struggle with infertility.

The document reaffirms Catholic teaching against in vitro fertilization, egg and sperm donation, surrogacy, cloning and embryo donation. It also explains that Catholic couples may pursue a wide variety of ethical treatments, including hormonal treatment and other medications, surgery to repair damaged fallopian tubes, natural family planning, and means for alleviating male infertility factors.

Says the document:"These avenues do not substitute for the married couple’s act of loving union; rather, they assist this act in reaching its potential for giving rise to a new human life."

After being debated by the U.S. bishops in Baltimore, "Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology" will require a vote of approval by two-thirds of the membership of the USCCB. This educational resource was prepared by the Pro-Life Committee as a companion to the document "Married Love and the Gift of Life," explaining the Church's teaching on contraception. Intended especially for engaged and married couples, that document was approved by the bishops in 2007 and has been distributed through many Catholic marriage preparation programs in the United States.

October 29, 2009

Action Alert! New Efforts on Health Care Reform Legislation

Congress is preparing to debate health care reform legislation. The Catholic bishops of the United States strongly support genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all, from the moment of conception until natural death. However, all current bills are seriously deficient on abortion and conscience rights, and do not yet provide adequate access to health care for immigrants and the poor.

The President of the Conference and the Chairmen of the three major USCCB committees engaged in health care reform have written all the bishops and asked that this important issue be addressed through prayers of the faithful and bulletin announcements at masses as soon as possible. Given the introduction of the House health care reform bill this morning, we are at a critical moment in the debate.

If you have not already done so, please take brief moment to follow this link to send an email to your member of Congress urging them to pass health care reform that respects the dignity of human life. Thank you for your efforts. The success of passing life-affirming and much-needed health care reform will only be achieved if members of Congress hear from their constituents.

Fr. McNamara named as Vicar General

SAGINAW - Bishop Joseph R. Cistone today appointed Father Thomas J. McNamara,pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Beal City, to serve as Vicar General for the Diocese of Saginaw.

The appointment, which is effective immediately, is for a term of three years. Father McNamara will continue to serve as Pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish.

Bishop Cistone made the following statement regarding the announcment:

"I am grateful to Father McNamara for accepting this appointment in addition to his current ministry. No doubt, at this point in his priestly ministry, he could be seeking less work rather than greater responsibility. Nonetheless, he has willingly and humbly accepted this appointment."

"Father McNamara has served the Diocese of Saginaw in an exemplary manner. He brings to this new assignment a well-rounded experience in education, diaconate ministry and the priesthood. I am confident that his wisdom, insights and lived ministry will be of great assistance to me and the Diocese as we contemplate the actions necessary to fulfill the mission of the Church here in Saginaw. I will work closely with Father McNamara in addressing the general areas of diocesan life. However, in a particular way, he will have oversight over those areas which directly affect the clergy, namely, our active and senior priests, seminarians, prospective vocations and permanent deacons."

"I take this opportunity to express gratitude to Father James Heller, pastor of St. Stephen Parish, Saginaw, who served as Vicar General during the time Archbishop Carlson was shepherd of this Diocese of Saginaw. Father Heller has been most cordial and helpful to me since my appointment as Bishop of Saginaw and I am personally grateful for his priestly ministry and friendship."

"I ask your prayers, well-wishes and support for Father McNamara as he assumes this new ministry for the Church of Saginaw."

Father McNamara, 71, grew up in Birch Run, where he attended Sacred Heart Parish and graduated from Birch Run High School.

He worked as an American government and American history teacher at Lake Fenton High School in Fenton for 19 years. He holds a bachelor of science degree and master's degree in polictical science, both from Centeral Michigan Universtiy, and received his seminary formation at St. John Provincial Seminary in Plymouth.
First ordained as a deacon by the Most Rev. Francis F. Reh, third Bishop of Saginaw, in 1980, Father McNamara was ordained to the priesthood on June 4, 1982 by the Most Rev. Kenneth E. Untener, fourth Bishop of Saginaw, at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in Saginaw.
During his priesthood, Father McNamara has served as an assistant pastor at St. Anne, Linwood (1982 - 1984), and St. Stephen, Saginaw (1984 - 1986). He has served as pastor at Our Lady of Lake Huron, Harbor Beach (1986 - 1991); Sacred Heart, Mount Pleasant (1991 - 1999); St. John the Evangelist, Essexville (1999 - 2005); Ss. Peter & Paul, Ruth, and St. Patrick, Palms (2005 - 2006); and St. Joseph the Worker, Beal City, since 2006.

October 26, 2009

Abortion Confusion in Health Care Reform

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh, RSM
USCCB / Media Relations

It's time to clear the air in the current debate over whether proposed health care legislation covers abortion. What's the truth?

Number one issue: Whether the Hyde Amendment applies now.

The Hyde Amendment has been federal policy since 1976. It states that money from the Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill cannot be used for most abortions or for health coverage that includes them. The catch with the proposed health care reform bills is that they will authorize and appropriate their own funds outside the bounds of this appropriations bill. Government money should not be used for abortion or abortion coverage. Hyde-like language needs to be written into the health care reform bills to preserve the longstanding government policy against supporting and facilitating abortions.

What needs to be done: Amend any health care reform bill to explicitly ban use of government money for health coverage that includes elective abortions.

Number two issue: Public Option and the Capps Amendment

Public Option: Language in some health care reform bills, known as the Capps Amendment after its congressional sponsor, explicitly allow the sponsor of each health plan to decide whether it will cover elective abortions. And some of these bills would create a government-run health plan (the "public option") to compete with private health plans nationwide. This means that the Health and Human Services Secretary, as the public option's sponsor, may mandate that it cover unlimited abortions, in direct contradiction to other federal programs. These abortions will be paid for entirely with federal funds. Purchasers will pay their premiums to the federal government, and the government will use these federal funds (along with a federal tax subsidy for those who qualify) to pay for abortions.

The Abortion Surcharge: To create the illusion that federal funds will not support abortion, the Capps amendment creates a distinct abortion surcharge, a fee of at least $1 a month that each purchaser of a plan must pay to cover all abortion procedures that are ineligible for federal funding in a given year under the annual Hyde amendment.  (Federal funding of abortion for many years has been only for cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother's life.) To get around forcing citizens to fund elective abortions with tax dollars, the government will help make them pay for most abortions with their premium dollars. Those who object will be told they could have chosen another plan - even if no plan without elective abortions meets their family's budget and health needs.

Government Abortion Mandate: The Capps amendment states that each region of the country must have at least one plan with elective abortion coverage. This creates a federal mandate for some private plans to cover abortions that every federal program for decades has excluded; the government would promote unlimited abortions by proxy.

Inserting the language of the Hyde amendment into these bills would not prevent insurers from covering abortion in their non-federally-funded plans, or from selling abortion coverage as a supplemental policy funded by the private dollars of those who choose it. But no American would be forced to subsidize abortion against his or her will. The solution to problems rooted in the Capps Amendment and the public option is a matter of a few words, to bring this legislation into line with what every other federal health program already says.

What needs to be done: Amend health care reform bills so that no American would be forced to subsidize abortion against his or her will.


Sister Mary Ann Walsh, RSM is Director of Media Relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Follow Sister Walsh on Twitter at www.twitter.com/sisterwalsh.

October 20, 2009

Cardinal George Responds to Vatican Announcement on Anglican Groups Entering Catholic Church

WASHINGTON (USCCB) — Cardinal Francis George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the following statement, October 20, following a Vatican announcement of a new provision concerning Anglican groups coming into the Catholic Church. His statement follows:

"Today the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has received word of the new Provision in the form of an apostolic constitution issued by the Holy See for the reception into full communion with the Catholic Church of groups from the Anglican tradition. The USCCB stands ready to collaborate in the implementation of that Provision in our country.

"This step by the Holy See is in response to a number of requests received in Rome from groups of Anglicans seeking corporate reunion. The application of the new Provision recognizes the desire of some Anglicans (Episcopalians) to live the Catholic faith in full, visible communion with the See of Peter, while at the same time retaining some elements of their traditions of liturgy, spirituality and ecclesial life which are consistent with the Catholic faith.

"This Provision, at the service of the unity of the Church, calls us as well to join our voices to the Priestly Prayer of Jesus that ‘all may be one’ (Jn 17:21) as we seek a greater communion with all our brothers and sisters with whom we share Baptism. For forty-five years, our Episcopal Conference has engaged in ecumenical dialogue with The Episcopal Church, which is the historic Province of the Anglican communion in North America. The Catholic Bishops of the United States remain committed to seeking deeper unity with the members of The Episcopal Church by means of theological dialogue and collaboration in activities that advance the mission of Christ and the welfare of society.”

From the Vactican: Note on Anglicans Wishing to Enter the Catholic Church

VATICAN CITY (VIS) - In a meeting with journalists held this morning in the Holy See Press Office Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia O.P., secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, presented a note on a new measure concerning "Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering the Catholic Church".

Commenting on the English-language note, which has been published by his dicastery, Cardinal Levada explained how, "with the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution, the Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion.

"In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.

"The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution provides a reasonable and even necessary response to a worldwide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal application. It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy. Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop. The seminarians in the Ordinariate are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony".

"The provision of this new structure is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church, particularly through the efforts of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The initiative has come from a number of different groups of Anglicans" who, said Cardinal Levada, "have declared that they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church. For them, the time has come to express this implicit unity in the visible form of full communion".

The cardinal further indicated that "it is the hope of the Holy Father Benedict XVI that the Anglican clergy and faithful who desire union with the Catholic Church will find in this canonical structure the opportunity to preserve those Anglican traditions precious to them and consistent with the Catholic faith. Insofar as these traditions express in a distinctive way the faith that is held in common, they are a gift to be shared in the wider Church. The unity of the Church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows. Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: 'There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism'.

"Our communion", the cardinal added in conclusion, "is therefore strengthened by such legitimate diversity, and so we are happy that these men and women bring with them their particular contributions to our common life of faith".

In a joint declaration on the same subject, Catholic Archbishop Vincent Gerard Nichols of Westminster and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury affirm that the announcement of the Apostolic Constitution "brings to an end a period of uncertainty for such groups who have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church. It will now be up to those who have made requests to the Holy See to respond to the Apostolic Constitution", which is a "consequence of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

"The on-going official dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion provides the basis for our continuing co-operation", the declaration adds. "The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) agreements make clear the path we will follow together.

"With God's grace and prayer we are determined that our on-going mutual commitment and consultation on these and other matters should continue to be strengthened. Locally, in the spirit of IARCCUM, we look forward to building on the pattern of shared meetings between the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales and the Church of England's House of Bishops with a focus on our common mission".

October 15, 2009

Liturgical Items At November Meeting Will Conclude U.S. Bishops’ Work On English Translation Of Roman Missal

WASHINGTON (USCCB)Six years of intense work on the English translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal are drawing to an end with five action items set to be voted on by the U.S. Catholic Bishops at their meeting in Baltimore, November 16-19.

Divine Worship items include votes on ICEL (International Committee for English in the Liturgy) Gray Book (final draft) translations, of the Proper of Saints, the Commons and the Roman Missal Supplement as well as the U.S. Propers and the U.S. adaptations to the Roman Missal. Approval of these items requires the positive vote of two-thirds of the Latin Church members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and subsequent confirmation by the Holy See.

The Proper of Saints is the collection of the specific prayers provided for each saint included in the universal liturgical calendar. The Commons is a collection of general prayers provided for celebrating other saints listed in the Roman Martyrology who are not included in the universal liturgical calendar.

ICEL began its work of translation of the new Missale Romanum in 2002. The first drafts, or “green books,” arrived at the bishops’ conferences of the English-speaking countries in 2004, and an extensive process of consultation begun. Additionally, the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship (formerly the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy) worked on the revision of translations and inclusion of items proper to the United States, which are not included in the Latin text.
“These five items will conclude the work of the U.S. Bishops on the Roman Missal. We now wait for final approval from the Holy See before the new English text can begin to be used

in parishes across the United States,” said Monsignor Anthony Sherman, executive director of the USCCB Office of Divine Worship. “A process of catechesis follows now, so that everyone is ready to move along when we get the final text from the Vatican. Pastors and faithful alike can find excellent catechetical materials posted on our Web page (http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal/).”

Regarding the translations of the Proper of Saints, the Commons, and the Roman Missal Supplement, Msgr. Sherman noted that ICEL has addressed many of the concerns highlighted during the Green Book consultation, and that word order and vocabulary have been improved in some cases to aid in the clarity of some complex orations.

The U.S. Adaptations to the Roman Missal include a number of adaptations which are included in the current Sacramentary but need to be presented again with the new text. They consist mostly of changes to rubrics (instructions to the presider, which usually appear in red) for Lent, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. The adaptations also recommend for inclusion in the Missal the Rites of Blessings of Oils and Consecrating the Chrism at the Chrism Mass, which are currently contained in the Sacramentary, and a series of texts currently in the Sacramentary Supplement (2004) which would otherwise be lost since the supplement will become obsolete with the publication of the third edition of the Roman Missal.

The final text of the third edition of the Roman Missal for the Dioceses of the United States must include orations and formularies for the feasts, memorials and commemorations from the Proper Calendar for the United States. These come from a number of sources. Prayers and translations (when English was not the original source) have been revised in accordance to the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam and in some cases modified, as with the prayers for use on Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day.

Consultation on the five final liturgical items was sent to bishops immediately after the Administrative Committee meeting in September. Modifications will be reviewed by the Committee on Divine Worship in late October, and the final drafts will be presented to the body of Bishops in November.

October 14, 2009

Bishops' Conference Officials Voice Disappointment In Senate Finance Committee Health Care Vote

WASHINGTON (USCCB) Spokespersons for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voiced disappointment in the Senate Finance Committee vote to approve its health care reform bill without first fixing problematic provisions.

On October 8, the bishops chairing the USCCB committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Pro-Life Activities, and Migration wrote to Congress that the bishops would have no choice but to oppose a final health care bill that fails to address key concerns and noted:
  • Policies against abortion funding and in support of conscience rights must be in the bill.
  • Health care should be affordable and available to the poor and vulnerable.
  • The needs of legal immigrants and their families should be met.
Kathy Saile, Director of the USCCB Office of Domestic Social Development, said: “We remain hopeful that problematic provisions in the bills, particularly the Senate Finance Committee bill, can be worked out. But time is running short and if the provisions are not fixed, the bishops have been clear that they will have no choice but to oppose a final bill. The stated purpose of pursuing health care reform was to provide those without health care coverage access to quality and affordable health care. There is real doubt that this bill will achieve that goal.”

 Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said, “No current health care bill approved by committee is consistent with longstanding and widely supported federal policies on abortion and conscience rights. Contrary to recent misleading comments from some sources, this and other health care reform bills appropriate their own funds outside the scope of the annual Labor/HHS appropriations bills, and so are not covered by the Hyde amendment that prevents those bills from funding abortion coverage. This legislation needs its own provision against such funding."

 Kevin Appleby, USCCB Director of Migration and Refugee Policy, said, "If the goal of health-care reform is to reduce significantly the number of uninsured, the Senate bill falls well short. As passed out of the Finance Committee, millions of legal immigrants and their families would be left outside the system, dependent on emergency rooms for their primary care."

 The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has advocated for health care reform for decades. The bishops wrote in their October 8 letter that “Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity. Much-needed reform of our health care system must be pursued in ways that serve the life and dignity of all, never in ways that undermine or violate these fundamental values. We will work tirelessly to remedy these central problems and help pass real reform that clearly protects the life, dignity and health of all.”

 The full text of the letter can be found online at: www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-10-08-healthcare-letter-congress.pdf

Pope: Unite Love for God with Love for Neighbor

VATICAN CITY (VIS) - In his general audience, held this morning in St. Peter's Square, the Pope spoke about Peter the Venerable, whom he described as "an admirable example of a man rigorously ascetic with himself yet understanding towards others".

Peter the Venerable, the Holy Father explained, was born around the year 1094. In 1122 he "was elected as abbot of Cluny", and died in 1156. "He cultivated friendship, particularly that of his monks, who were wont to confide in him sure of being accepted and understood".

"This holy abbot is an example for monks and other Christians in our own time, with its frenetic pace of life in which episodes of intolerance and lack of communication, of division and conflict, are not infrequent", said the Pope. "His witness invites us to unite our love for God with love for neighbour, and never to cease creating bonds of fraternity and reconciliation".

Benedict XVI highlighted how Peter the Venerable, "with profound ecclesial sensibility, affirmed that the vicissitudes of the Christian people must be felt 'in the depths of the heart' by everyone who considers themselves to be 'members of the Body of Christ'. And he added: 'they are not nourished by the Spirit of Christ who do not feel the wounds of the Body of Christ' wherever they may occur".

The Pope went on to explain how Peter "also showed great concern and solicitude for people outside the Church, particularly Jews and Muslims. In order to favour understanding with Muslims, he commissioned a translation of the Koran".

The Pope also emphasised the abbot's "love for the Eucharist and his devotion to the Virgin Mary", as well as his "predilection for literary activities, for which he had a talent".

"Although he was not a systematic theologian, he was nonetheless a great investigator of the mystery of God. His theology had its roots in prayer, especially liturgical prayer. Among the mysteries of Christ he preferred that of the Transfiguration, which prefigures the Resurrection. It was, in fact, he who introduced this feast to Cluny" with the aim of favouring "contemplation of the glorious face of Christ".

For Peter the Venerable the ideal for monks to follow "consists in 'tenacious adherence to Christ' through ... silent contemplation and constant praise of God".

"If this lifestyle, associated with daily work represents ... the ideal for monks, it can, to a large extent, also represent an ideal for all Christians who wish to become true disciples of Christ, characterised by their own tenacious adherence to Him through humility, hard work and a capacity for forgiveness and peace".

October 12, 2009

Pope: Mary Guides All Journeys to Sainthood

VATICAN CITY (VIS) - At the end of this morning's Mass, during which he canonised five blesseds the Holy Father emerged into the atrium of the Vatican Basilica to pray the Angelus with thousands of faithful who had followed the ceremony from St. Peter's Square.

The Pope invited French pilgrims to follow the example of St. Jeanne Jugan and concern themselves "with the poorest and weakest, with those wounded by life and abandoned by our societies, and to do so particularly for the occasion of the 'World Day for the Eradication of Poverty'".

Turning his attention to Fr. Damien, he invited people "to support, through prayer and works, those people generously committed to combating the disease of leprosy and the other forms of 'leprosy' that are due to a lack of love, ignorance and indifference". He also expressed the hope that the intercession of the new saint and of the Blessed Virgin would "free the world of leprosy".

Greeting a group of survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki he said: "I pray that the world may never again witness such mass destruction of innocent human life".

The news Spanish saints, Francesc Coll y Guitart and Rafael Arnaiz Baron, "honour the best religious traditions and the profound Christian roots of their people", said the Holy Father.

He then invited Polish pilgrims to rejoice at their new saint, Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski, former archbishop of Warsaw, and entrusted to his protection "the Church of Poland, and the entire nation".

"The Virgin Mary", Pope Benedict concluded, "is the star that guides all journeys to sainthood. Her 'fiat' is the model of perfect adherence to the divine will, and her 'Magnificat' expresses the hymn of joy of the Church, which on earth already rejoices for the great works of God, and in heaven eternally praises His glory".

October 8, 2009

U.S. Bishops: Current Health Care Bills Violate Essential Principles; Will Seek Changes Or Have To Oppose

WASHINGTON (USCCB) Three chairmen of the bishops’ committees working on health care reform urged the U.S. Congress to improve current health care reform legislation, expressing their “disappointment that progress has not been made on the three priority criteria for health care reform” cited in their previous letters.

The October 8 letter from Bishop William Murphy, Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop John Wester reiterated the bishops’ main concerns: that no one should be forced to pay for or participate in an abortion, that health care should be affordable and available to the poor and vulnerable, and that the needs of legal immigrants are met.

Bishop Murphy, Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Wester chair the U.S. bishops’ committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Pro-Life Activities and Immigration, respectively.

The bishops reaffirmed their commitment to working with Congress and the Administration toward genuine health care reform, but stated, “If final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill.”

“We sincerely hope that the legislation will not fall short of our criteria,” wrote the bishops. “However, we remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has advocated for health care reform for decades. The bishops wrote that “Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity. Much-needed reform of our health care system must be pursued in ways that serve the life and dignity of all, never in ways that undermine or violate these fundamental values. We will work tirelessly to remedy these central problems and help pass real reform that clearly protects the life, dignity and health of all.”

The full text of the letter can be found online at: www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-10-08-healthcare-letter-congress.pdf

USCCB Commends Advance Of Community Radio Act

WASHINGTON (USCCB) The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) commends the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet for marking up H.R. 1147, the Community Radio Act of 2009, and moving this important bill forward.

H.R. 1147 will create hundreds of new low power radio stations. These small radio stations offer Catholic programmers and Catholic dioceses and parishes (including the institutions they support, such as schools, health care entities, community development projects and refugee resettlement programs) a practical method of reaching their community with information and discussion of local issues.

“Creating more low power FM radio stations will offer a place for non-commercial religious programming and public service announcements, which face an uphill struggle for airtime on commercial full-power radio and television stations,” stated Helen Osman, Secretary of Communications for the USCCB. “H.R. 1147 is a valuable opportunity for Congress to offer a platform for religious organizations, schools and community organizations to serve their communities with local radio programming.”

The USCCB has supported the widest deployment of the low power FM service possible since its inception more than a decade ago.

Cardinal McCarrick Brings Catholic Bishops' Perspective To Senate Hearing On Comprehensive Immigration Reform

WASHINGTON (USCCB) Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, testified today in Congress before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security on Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The hearing sought faith-based perspectives on immigration reform.

“Our nation requires an immigration system that marries legal immigration with our long-term economic needs, the principle of family unity, and basic human rights. This will help restore the rule of law to our immigration system. Now, our immigration system accomplishes none of these goals,” said Cardinal McCarrick.

The cardinal also addressed concerns regarding the rule of law and how it applies to immigration. “In truth, the church position in favor of reform seeks to restore the rule of law and provide order and legality to an otherwise chaotic system,” said Cardinal McCarrick, a consultant to the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration.

Cardinal McCarrick outlined the key elements the U.S. bishops believe should be addressed in any immigration reform legislation.

1. Bring the undocumented population in this country out of the shadows and give them a chance, over time, to achieve permanent residency and citizenship.

2. Preserve family unity by strengthening family-based immigration.

3. Create legal avenues for migration, so that migrant workers, who labor in many important industries in our nation, are able to enter the country legally and in a safe and orderly fashion.

4. Give immigrants their day in court by restoring due process protections removed in 1996 legislation.

5. Work with neighboring countries and the international community to address the root causes of migration, so that immigrants and their families ultimately can remain in their home countries and support their families in dignity.

While recognizing that immigration has economic, social, and legal aspects which must be addressed in any reform legislation, Cardinal McCarrick expressed that, from the perspective of Catholic teaching, immigration is ultimately a humanitarian issue.

“In our view, our immigration laws ultimately must be judged by how they impact the basic dignity and God-given human rights of the human person,” Cardinal McCarrick said.

The cardinal also urged Senators keep the discourse “civil” and to refrain from “labeling and de-humanizing our brothers and sisters” nor “scapegoat them for unrelated economic or social challenges we face.”

Cardinal McCarrick also said the Catholic Church stands ready to assist the legislators as they “lead the nation toward a humane and just immigration system which both restores the rule of law and respects the inherent human dignity of the person.”

Holy Trinity School Receives Humanities Council Grant

By Sharon Pagryzinski / Enrollment Coordinator, Bay Area Catholic Schools

BAY CITY – A challenging economy calls for schools, as well as individuals, to make the most of their dollars and stretch them as far as possible. Terrie DeWaele, principal at Holy Trinity School, continues to do that wherever she can. Her initiative was rewarded again recently when her school was notified of a $124 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council.

This grant was available to any school who had been awarded the “Picturing America” posters from the Council last year, which DeWaele had applied for and received. The current grant will enable Holy Trinity fourth and fifth grade students to attend the Saginaw Art Museum and participate in a program entitled “Native American Art: Beauty and Use”. Students will be able to view the exhibit of items created and used by Native Americans of the Great Lakes region and then spend time in the museum’s classroom to create their own piece of artwork modeled after the style they observe. The grant will cover transportation as well as admission.

“What a wonderful opportunity for our students to be able to have such a great hands-on experience,” exclaimed the delighted Mrs. DeWaele, upon learning of the grant award.

The timing of this grant is significant. It dovetails with the students’ American History Curriculum, so they will be able to take their creations and first-hand knowledge back to the classroom for further study and discussion. The students are slated to visit the museum later this month.

BACS continues the Catholic school tradition begun here in the 1850s, providing 3-year-old preschool through 12th grade faith-based, solid academic education. BACS is among Bay County’s top 50 employers and functions as one of the few Catholic school systems in Michigan. In recent years, ithas become a model for schools across the country that are seeking to shift from a parish school structure to a school system concept. BACS is spiritually and financially supported by the 13 Vicariate 4 parishes.

To learn more about BACS, log onto http://www.bacschools.org/.

October 7, 2009

Local Educator to Receive History Award

By Sharon Pagryzinski / Enrollment Coordinator, Bay Area Catholic Schools

BAY CITY – Monica Bannigan, a teacher at St. Stanislaus Kostka Elementary School, will be presented an American History Teachers Award, certificate and gift by the Northern Michigan Chapter of the Michigan Society, Sons of the American Revolution (MISSAR). Following MISSAR’s general meeting on October 10 in Traverse City, Bannigan will receive the chapter’s accolades and also be presented as a candidate for the 2009 national award.

A 20 year veteran at St. Stanislaus School, Bannigan has taught history for the past four years to the fifth grade students. She is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and the mother of three. She and her husband, Pat, reside in Bay City and are very active in their parish of St. Stanislaus and in the community.

According to Joseph Conger, SAR, President NMC Chapter, “Monica Bannigan  . . . makes history come alive for her students by asking them to research, dress, write and give a dissertation on their favorite patriot in history. Not only do the children learn for themselves, but from each other.” In addition, he noted, “as an American History teacher, I believe she should be recognized for her efforts and high standards in teaching.”

“It’s an honor to be recognized for this project,” Bannigan stated. “It’s a great way to present biographies and history at the same time. Its hands on, it’s all encompassing, and the kids love it! Their costumes are amazing. This project always seems to bring out the best in the students.”

MISSAR was chartered in 1890; the NMC in 1989. Each year the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) seek to identify, recognize and commend outstanding Social Studies teachers. The national award winner will receive a trip to Freedoms Foundation Summer Teacher Graduate Workshop at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, valued at $1,400. The award will include tuition, room, and board provided through the Freedoms Foundation, plus $400 toward transportation expenses.

BACS continues the Catholic school tradition begun here in the 1850s, providing 3-year-old preschool through 12th grade faith-based, solid academic education. BACS is among Bay County’s top 50 employers and functions as one of the few Catholic school systems in Michigan. In recent years, ithas become a model for schools across the country that are seeking to shift from a parish school structure to a school system concept. BACS is spiritually and financially supported by the 13 Vicariate 4 parishes.

To learn more about BACS, log onto http://www.bacschools.org/.

Bishop Cistone welcomes Bishop-elect Hebda as 'our new neighbor to the North'

SAGINAW - Bishop Joseph R. Cistone issued the following statement this morning upon news of Pope Benedict XVI's appointment of the Reverend Monsignor Bernard A. Hebda as the fourth Bishop of Gaylord:

"It is with great joy that I extend sincere and prayerful best wishes to Bishop-elect Bernard A. Hebda on his appointment as Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord. On behalf of the Diocese of Saginaw, I welcome Bishop-elect Hebda as our new neighbor to the North. I am especially pleased for his appointment for two reasons. First, I am no longer the 'new kid on the block' as a Bishop in Michigan; and, second, he is from my home state of Pennsylvania."

"From my own experience, I can assure Bishop-elect Hebda that the faithful of Gaylord will receive him in the same way that I have been warmly received here in Saginaw. He will find a vibrant, faithful and loving local Church within this beautiful region of the country. I look forward to working together with Bishop-elect Hebda in the Michigan Catholic Conference and in the many pastoral issues which we, as bishops, address together. I invite all the faithful of the Diocese of Saginaw to join me in praying that Bishop-elect Hebda’s ministry will be grace-filled and joyful."

"I take this opportunity to express deep gratitude to Bishop Patrick Cooney for his outstanding leadership as shepherd of the Diocese of Gaylord these many years. I know from my own brief time here among the Bishops of Michigan, as well as from my understanding of his work with the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services, that Bishop Cooney has been a faithful bishop and a great blessing to his beloved community in Gaylord and to the Church at large. I wish him many joyful and healthy years as he begins a well-deserved retirement."

Pope names new bishop for Diocese of Gaylord

GAYLORD - The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has named the Reverend Monsignor Bernard A. Hebda, Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts at the Vatican, as the new Bishop for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gaylord. Bishop-elect Hebda, 50, of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, will become the fourth bishop of Gaylord succeeding Bishop Patrick R. Cooney who has led the diocese for the past 20 years. The announcement was made today by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, in Washington, D.C.

As required by Church law, Bishop Cooney submitted his resignation to the Holy Father when he turned 75 on March 10 of this year. Bishop Cooney will remain in the diocese as Apostolic Administrator until the date of Bishop-elect Hebda’s episcopal ordination and installation, which has not yet been determined.

The Diocese of Gaylord was established by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on July 20, 1971. The territory encompasses 11,171 square miles and includes the 21 most northern counties of Michigan’s lower peninsula. The region is home to some 510,532 residents of which more than 66,000 are Catholic and is served by 80 parishes, 17 Catholic schools and many closely related institutions.

A news conference introducing Bishop-elect Hebda to the Diocese of Gaylord will be held at 11:00 a.m. today at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Gaylord.

Learn more about Bishop-elect Hebda's appointment at www.dioceseofgaylord.org.

October 2, 2009

Senate Committee Addresses Some Issues on Affordability, Fails to Correct Abortion Problems and Immigration Concerns

WASHINGTON (USCCB) Officials of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) saw mixed results when the Senate Finance Committee completed voting on amendment to its proposed health care reform bill this week.

In a recent letter to the Senate, the USCCB had called for improvements in the bill to meet the bishops’ key criteria for genuine health care reform: protecting life and dignity, affordability, and inclusion of immigrants. For the text of this letter see www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-09-30-healthcare-letter-senate.pdf.

The Committee rejected pro-life amendments offered by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) which the USCCB supported. One amendment would write into this bill the abortion funding policy that has long governed all federal health programs: no federal subsidies for benefits packages that cover abortion, with rare exceptions; insurers could offer supplemental abortion policies if they were funded solely by the private premiums of those choosing to purchase them. Another amendment would forbid federal agencies, and state and local governments receiving federal funds under this bill, to discriminate against health care providers that decline to perform, refer for, or pay for abortions.

“The bill remains deeply flawed on these issues and must be corrected,” said Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. “It is especially disheartening that the Senate committee would not even support longstanding conscience language on abortion that has already been accepted as part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health care reform bill.”

The USCCB’s recent letter had said that “so far, the health reform bills considered in committee, including the new Senate Finance Committee bill, have not met President Obama’s challenge of barring use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws.” Doerflinger said this remains true, so “these problems must be corrected on the House and Senate floor.”

On affordability, Kathy Saile, Director of Domestic Social Development for the USCCB, said the bill took some steps toward making health care more affordable, but that “many families are still vulnerable to high health care costs. As Congress continues to debate health care reform, it should take further steps to help at-risk poor and low-income families and implement access as soon as possible.” As an example, Saile said, “Expansion of access to programs such as Medicaid should be implemented as soon as possible.”

On inclusion of immigrants, the Committee defeated amendments opposed by the USCCB, which would have placed additional restrictions on legal immigrants and their families from accessing health-care, but failed to improve the access immigrants currently have.

“Legal immigrants, who work hard and pay taxes, should be treated equally with U.S. citizens,” said Kevin Appleby, director of Migration Policy and Public Affairs for the USCCB. “It is counterproductive to the general public health to leave them outside of the system, unable to access preventive treatment and dependent on emergency care. The U.S. bishops will continue to push for affordability grants to legal immigrants and their families and a removal of the five-year waiting period for legal immigrants to access Medicaid.”

For more information on the U.S. bishops’ position on health care reform, visit www.usccb.org/healthcare.

October 1, 2009

Archdiocese to host Relic of Saint Damien of Molokai Oct. 13-14

DETROIT - The Archdiocese of Detroit will host a relic of Saint Damien of Molokai on Oct. 13-14 at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral. Damien of Molokai was a Belgian-born priest who was known for his compassionate ministry to those with Hansen's disease (leprosy) amid a quarantined Hawaiian community in the 19th century. He will be canonized a saint at the Vatican on Oct. 11 by Pope Benedict XVI. The relic to be hosted at the Cathedral is a bone from Saint Damien's heel. Veneration of relics is a church custom that dates back to the time of the apostles, when early Christians would show reverence to the remains of martyrs.

The following is a schedule of events. All prayer services are open to the public:

Tuesday, Oct. 13

7 p.m. Reception of Saint Damien's relic into the Cathedral

7:30 p.m. Vespers service in presence of the relic

7:50–9 p.m. Relic will be on display for silent veneration

9 p.m. Cathedral doors close

Wednesday, Oct. 14

The Cathedral doors will be open from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. for silent veneration of the relic. Please note that veneration will be suspended during the following services.

7:15 a.m. Mass with His Excellency, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron

1 p.m. Scripture service for priests and religious (open to the public), celebrated by Bishop Moses Anderson, SSE

3 p.m. Healing Mass, with the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, to be celebrated by Bishop Francis Reiss

7 p.m. Mass for the faithful of the Archdiocese, to be celebrated by Bishop Daniel Flores

The Cathedral is located at 9844 Woodward Avenue in Detroit, one mile north of West Grand Boulevard and one mile south of the Davison Freeway. For more information about Saint Damien, and the latest information on the relic visit, please visit the Archdiocese of Detroit Web site at www.aodonline.org/stdamien. If you would like to schedule a group visit to the Cathedral for the relic visit, call (313) 883-2080.