December 23, 2009

Alert! Senate Health Care Reform Vote Set for Dec. 24

On Thursday evening, December 24, Christmas Eve, the United States Senate is expected to vote on final passage of its health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  In a December 22 letter to members of the Senate, the U.S. Bishops state that the abortion and conscience provisions in this proposal are not acceptable. The bishops strongly urge the Senate "not to move its current health care reform bill forward without incorporating essential changes to ensure that needed health care reform legislation truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all." The bishops conclude: "Until these fundamental flaws are remedied the bill should be opposed."

The bishops' full letter can be read here.

According to the Senate legislation:
  • Federal funds will help subsidize, and in some cases a federal agency will facilitate and promote, health plans that cover elective abortions;
  • All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people's abortions in a very direct and explicit way, through a separate premium payment designed solely to pay for abortion; 
  • There is no provision for individuals to opt out of this abortion payment in federally subsidized plans, so people will be required by law to pay for other people's abortions;
  •  States may opt out of this system only by passing legislation to prohibit abortion coverage;
  • The bill includes no conscience protection allowing Catholic and other institutions to provide and purchase health coverage consistent with their moral and religious convictions on other procedures;
  •  The bill forbids undocumented immigrants from purchasing health care coverage in the exchange;
  • The bill still leaves over 23 million people in our nation without health insurance. This falls far short of what is needed in both policy and moral dimensions.
The Catholic Church for decades has supported reform of the nation's health care system. The Church teaches that basic health care is a fundamental right. The Church has also made clear that any reform of health care delivery in the United States must uphold the life and dignity of all persons, including immigrants, provide conscience protections for those in the health care field, and provide that any reform ensures health care affordability for the poor among us.

Unfortunately, some in Congress are attempting to usurp health care reform in order to alter our nation's long-standing prohibition on taxpayer funded abortion. This is the time to make our Catholic voice heard.

Click here to contact Sens. Levin and Stabenow regarding final passage of the Senate's health care reform legislation.

Bishops Call Senate Health Care Reform Bill ‘Deficient,’ Essential Changes Needed Before Moving Forward

WASHINGTON — The current health care reform bill is “deficient” and should not move forward without “essential changes,” the chairmen of three committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said December 22.

The chairs, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, of the Committee on  Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, of the Committee on Migration, stated their position in a December 22 letter to senators working to pass the Senate version of health reform legislation.

The entire letter can be found at
The legislative proposal now advancing “violates the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions -- a policy upheld in all health programs covered by the Hyde Amendment as well as in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program -- and now in the House-passed ‘Affordable Health Care for America Act,’” the bishops said.

They said that the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives “keeps in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding of elective abortions and plans that include elective abortions” and “ensures that where federal funds are involved, people are not required to pay for other people’s abortions.” The Senate bill does not maintain this commitment.

In the Senate version, “federal funds will help subsidize, and in some cases a federal agency will facilitate and promote, health plans that cover elective abortions,” the bishops said. “All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions in a very direct and explicit way, through a separate premium payment designed solely to pay for abortion.  There is no provision for individuals to opt out of this abortion payment in federally subsidized plans, so people will be required by law to pay for other people’s abortions.”

The public consensus against abortion funding, said the bishops, “is borne out by many opinion surveys, including the new Quinnipiac University survey December 22 showing 72 percent opposed to public funding of abortion in health care reform legislation.”

“This bill also continues to fall short of the House-passed bill in preventing governmental discrimination against health care providers that decline involvement in abortion,” the bishops said. And it also “includes no conscience protection  allowing Catholic and other institutions to provide and purchase health coverage consistent with their moral and religious convictions on other procedures.”

The bishops also called for all immigrants, regardless of status, to be able purchase a health insurance plan with their own money.

“Without such access, many immigrant families would be unable to receive primary care and be compelled to rely on emergency room care,” the bishops said. “This would harm not only immigrants and their families, but also the general public health. Moreover, the financial burden on the American public would be higher, as Americans would pay for uncompensated medical care through the federal budget or higher insurance rates.”

The bishops urged removal of the five-year ban on legal immigrants accessing federal health benefit programs, such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Medicare, which was proposed by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). His proposal, “which would give states the option to remove this ban, should be included in the bill.”

The bishops said they want health insurance to be affordable and said that while the Senate bill “makes great progress in covering people in our nation,” it “would still leave over 23 million people in our nation without health insurance. This falls far short of what is needed in both policy and moral dimensions.”

The bishops urged Congress and the Administration to “fashion health care reform legislation that truly protects the life, dignity, health and consciences of all.”

Right now, they said, “in all the areas of our moral concern, the Senate health care reform bill is deficient.  On the issue of respect for unborn human life, the bill not only falls short of the House’s standard but violates longstanding precedent in all other federal health programs. Therefore we believe the Senate should not move this bill forward at this time but continue to discuss and approve changes that could make it morally acceptable. Until these fundamental flaws are remedied the bill should be opposed.”

“Regardless of the outcome in the Senate, we will work vigorously to incorporate into the final legislation our priorities for upholding conscience rights and longstanding current prohibitions on abortion funding; ensuring affordability and access; and including immigrants,” they added. “We hope and pray that the Congress and the country will come together around genuine reform.”

December 22, 2009

NPR Story Notes DoS Ministry Efforts: 'After 35 Years In Prison, Redemption In Michigan'

Copyright © 2009 National Public Radio®. 
Heard on Weekend Edition Sunday December 20, 2009 

LIANE HANSEN, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

In the 1980s, the chief maximum security federal prison in the United States was in Marion, Illinois. It was a controversial place - guards had been attacked and killed there, inmates had complained of abuse and retaliation and human rights groups condemned the prison for the way it was run.

NPR sent Jacki Lyden there in 1986, and she met inmates being held in the Marion Control Unit, a prison within the prison. Last spring, Jacki heard from one of the men she interviewed back then. He was out after 35 years.

JACKI LYDEN: I got an email last April from a listener.

Mr. MICHAEL GEOGHEGAN: Jacki, I heard your interview on Sunday's program about solitary confinement

LYDEN: The writer of that email is a man named Michael Geoghegan.

Mr. GEOGHEGAN: I'm happy you're still doing stories on that issue. You'll be happy to know I'm doing well. Have my own place - a nice place - and more importantly, am deeply involved in a prisoner reentry initiative here in Saginaw.

LYDEN: The last time I'd seen Geoghegan, he was sitting in the Marion Control Unit wearing a jumpsuit and manacles with flowing long, brown hair.

Mr. GEOGHEGAN: I got wrote up the other day for letting somebody read my magazines, you know. They said, well, that's against the rules. You're not supposed to let anybody read your magazines. I said, what do you mean? I thought the purpose of being here is to show that you can get along with other inmates. I said, I thought that was part of the program, you know?

LYDEN: He was in prison for a string of bank robberies he committed when he was 20. While he was in prison, he received more time for stabbing a guard he had a grudge against. He'd acquired a knife and a handcuff key from a fellow inmate and took them into a hearing with the guard.

Mr. GEOGHEGAN: And then he asked me, he said, do you have anything else you want to say? Well, by then I had taken one of the handcuffs off and reached in my waistband and pulled out the knife. And I said, no, alls I got to say is this and leaped across the table and stuck him. And so needless to say, I was given the maximum sentence and sentenced to serve a consecutive sentence and given 32 months control unit time and kept in Marion for almost 11 years.

LYDEN: I never thought I'd see him out on the street, but here he was, a small, wiry, troll of a man, 55, with tousled gray hair and wire-rimmed glasses. In his leather jacket he looked vaguely academic. He was paroled on June 25th, 2008, to a halfway house in Saginaw, Michigan. For years, he'd been trying to make a transformation. While he was in prison, he read thousands of books. He found special inspiration in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke.

Mr. GEOGHEGAN: What will God do when I die? And I thought: nothing. You know, God would do nothing, because I don't exist in God's eyes. You know, I have no soul. It was dead. It's been dead. And I always felt this vast emptiness inside of me. And it was only in the past 15 years or so that I managed to learn that I do have the courage to heal.

LYDEN: Geoghegan was talking about his shattered childhood. His father was an Irish immigrant, a broken alcoholic who went to prison. His mother suffered a breakdown and put her nine-year-old son in a Catholic boys' home in Detroit. Geoghegan says he was victimized by a deacon there.

Mr. GEOGHEGAN: He was a monster. And, I mean, he had a select corps of young men, and he would make us practice on the older kids in order to be better for him. And this went on for a year-and-a-half. And I had blocked a lot of it out.

LYDEN: Before he could deal with the shadows of the past, he had to fulfill the visceral needs of the present. No ID, no friends, no money. He had wretched physical health. He was bleeding internally with ulcerated colitis. What Geoghegan wanted first, though, was a reckoning and atonement. After he was released from the hospital, he caught a bus here to the corner of Bay and Weiss Streets. He walked in his frail condition for miles until he reached the offices of the Saginaw diocese.

And why were you going there?

Follow Geoghegan into the office of the Bishop of Saginaw and read the entire transcript of his story at

December 21, 2009

Bishop Cistone utilizes YouTube to offer first Christmas blessing, welcome back faithful who have been away

SAGINAW — Using the technology of the viral Internet phenomenon known as YouTube, Bishop Joseph R. Cistone today posted a video recorded Christmas blessing for the faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.

Earlier this month Bishop Cistone launched his own Web blog, “Father of Mercy and Love,” as a means to share video recorded homilies and messages as well as written announcements and reflections. The bishop’s blog also is accessible through the diocese’s Internet homepage. 

Bishop Cistone’s blog, which is a first of its kind for a bishop of Saginaw, adds him to the rolls of the nation’s other blogging bishops, which include Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston.

The diocese’s YouTube channel follows the lead of the Vatican, which established its presence on the video sharing site in 2005 and began broadcasting posts of the Pope’s daily activities in January of this year. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched its own YouTube channel in 2008.  

Bishop’s Cistone’s Christmas video and others are hosted on YouTube as part of the  FAITHsaginaw Channel operated under the nameplate of the Diocese of Saginaw’s quarterly magazine, FAITH Saginaw, and the direction of the Communications Office.

Bishop Cistone was selected by Pope Benedict XVI to be the Bishop of Saginaw in May and was installed as the diocese’s sixth bishop on July 28. His predecessors were Archbishop Robert J. Carlson (2005-2009), Bishop Kenneth E. Untener (1980-2004), Bishop Francis F. Reh (1968-1980), Bishop Stephen S. Woznicki (1950-1968) and Bishop William F. Murphy (1938-1950). 

The Diocese of Saginaw was established in 1938 and includes upwards of 119,000 Catholics worshiping in 105 parish communities located across 11 mid-Michigan counties.

December 19, 2009

Catholic Bishops: Health Refore Bill Needs More Work Despite New Languate on Abortion

WASHINGTON - The Senate health reform bill should not move forward in its current form, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City said December 19, as senators proceeded closer to a vote. Cardinal DiNardo chairs the bishops' Committee on Pro-life Activities. Bishop Murphy chairs the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Bishop Wester chairs the bishops' Committee on Migration.

"Yesterday the bishops comented on good-faith efforts by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) to improve the pending Senate health care reform bill on the issues of abortion and conscience rights," Cardinal DiNardo, Bishop Murphy and Bishop Wester said.

"Today a Manager's Amendment was proposed to make final changes in that bill. The amendment includes some improvements from Senator Casey's proposal, including adoption tax credits and assistance for pregnant women, but differs from that proposal in other ways: It does not seem to allow purchasers who exercise freedom of choice or of conscience to "opt out" of abortion coverage in federally subsidized health plans that include such coverage. Instead it will require purchasers of such plans to pay a distinct fee or surcharge which is extracted solely to help pay for other people's abortions. Further the government agency that currently manages health coverage for federal employees will promote and help subsidize multi-state health plans that include elective abortions, contrary to longstanding law governing this agency.

Therefore, while we appreciate the good-faith efforts made by Senators Robert Casey and Ben Nelson (D-NE) to improve the bill, our judgment is the same as it was yesterday: This legislation should not move forward in its current form. It should be opposed unless and until such serious concerns have been addressed. The bishops' conference continues to study that 383-page amendment's implications from the perspective of all the bishops' moral concerns -- protection of life and conscience, affordable access to health care, and fairness to immigrants. We will continue to work vigorously for authentic health care reform that clearly reflects these fundamental principles because such reform is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority."

December 18, 2009

Holy See Efforts to Take a Lead in Protecting Enviroment

VATICAN CITY (VIS) - Made public today was the text of the speech to the United Nations Climate Change Conference currently being held in Copenhagen, Denmark, made by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio and head of the Holy See delegation to that meeting.

In his English-language talk the nuncio pointed out that the Holy See, "in the albeit small state of Vatican City, is making significant efforts to take a lead in environmental protection by promoting and implementing energy diversification projects targeted at the development of renewable energy, with the objective of reducing emissions of CO2 and its consumption of fossil fuels.

"In addition, the Holy See is giving substance to the necessity to disseminate an education in environmental responsibility, which also seeks to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology", he added. "Many Catholic educational institutions are engaged in promoting such a model of education, both in schools and in universities. Moreover, episcopal conferences, dioceses, parishes and faith-based NGOs have been devoted to advocacy and management of ecological programs for a number of years".

The archbishop concluded: "These efforts are about working on lifestyles, as the current dominant models of consumption and production are often unsustainable from the point of view of social, environmental, economic and even moral analysis. We must safeguard creation - soil, water and air - as a gift entrusted to everyone, but we must also and above all prevent mankind from destroying itself. The degradation of nature is directly connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence: when human ecology is respected within society, environmental ecology will benefit. The way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself".

'Abortion Compromise' Does Not Address Core Problem in Senate Health Bill, Says U.S. Bishop's Pro-Life Chairman

WASHINGTON — Responding to reports of a new “compromise” proposal on abortion in the U.S. Senate’s health care reform bill, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo today reaffirmed the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that the legislation will be morally unacceptable “unless and until” it complies with longstanding current laws on abortion funding such as the Hyde amendment.  Cardinal DiNardo is Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and Chairman of the Conference’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities. 
The Cardinal commented on efforts by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) to improve the Senate bill’s treatment of abortion.

“Senator Casey’s good-faith effort to allow individuals to ‘opt out’ of abortion coverage actually underscores how radically the underlying Senate bill would change abortion policy. Excluding elective abortions from overall health plans is not a privilege that individuals should have to seek as the exception to the norm. In all other federal health programs, excluding abortion coverage is the norm. And numerous opinion polls show that the great majority of Americans do not want abortion coverage.”

“I welcome Senator Casey’s good-faith effort to improve this bill,” said Cardinal DiNardo.  “In particular he has sought to improve protection for conscience rights, and to include programs of support for pregnant women and adoptive parents that we favor in their own right.  However, these improvements do not change the fundamental problem with the Senate bill: Despite repeated claims to the contrary, it does not comply with longstanding Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them.”
Cardinal DiNardo had written to the Senate on December 14, saying that “the Catholic bishops of the United States strongly support authentic reform of our ailing health care system.” His letter cited “three moral criteria for reform: respect for life and conscience; affordability for the poor; and access to much-needed basic health care for immigrants,” noting that so far the Senate bill “has fallen short of the example set by the House version of this legislation in each of these areas.”

On abortion funding, the Cardinal urged the Senate to “incorporate into this bill the longstanding and widely supported policies of current law, acknowledged and reaffirmed by the Senate itself” when it approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act for the new fiscal year on December 13. This Act reaffirmed the Hyde amendment and other laws that exclude elective abortions from health plans receiving federal funds -- including the plans that cover the Senators themselves and all other federal employees. The Senate so far has failed to reflect this same policy in its health care bill as the House has done, he said [see].

Cardinal DiNardo said December 18: “We continue to oppose and urge others to oppose the Senate bill unless and until this fundamental failure is remedied. And whatever the immediate outcome in the Senate, we will continue to work for health care reform which truly protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all. As the bishops have said many times, ‘providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority.’ In particular we will work vigorously to ensure that the substance of the House’s provision on abortion funding is included in final legislation. A special debt of gratitude is owed to House and Senate members, especially Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who have placed their votes and reputation on the line to stand up for unborn children. Making this legislation consistent with longstanding federal law on abortion will not threaten needed authentic reform, but will help ensure its passage.”

December 16, 2009

Bishop Cistone names Fr. Byrne as Vicar for Catholic Schools

SAGINAW — Bishop Joseph R. Cistone today announced the appointment of Father Robert H. Byrne, pastor of Blessed Trinity Parish in Frankenmuth, as Vicar for Catholic Schools.

“Father Byrne brings a wealth of priestly, pastoral, educational and administrative experience to this position,” Bishop Cistone said.  “With Father Byrne serving as Vicar for Catholic Schools, I believe the diocese will have greater confidence as we move forward to assist our Catholic schools. We will also gain deeper insight from Father Byrne regarding the local situation and clearer direction as to the necessary measures which must be taken to improve our educational program both locally and as a diocese.” 

As Vicar for Catholic Schools, Father Byrne will serve as Bishop’s Cistone’s top representative to the 26 school communities located across the diocese and will advise the bishop on issues important to the success of Catholic schools. He will assist the bishop in evaluating candidates for the position of Superintendent of Catholic Schools and re-establishing a Catholic Schools Office at the Diocesan Center. He also will provide leadership and support to pastors, pastoral administrators, regional superintendents, principals, teachers and school committees and boards of all Catholic Schools in the diocese.

“I believe that the Catholic schools in our diocese are an important resource and I am willing to assist Bishop Cistone in every way that I can to support and strengthen our schools,” Father Byrne said. 

Father Byrne, 62, grew up in Saginaw County’s Maple Grove Township, where he attended St. Michael Parish and School. He received his secondary education from the former St. Paul Seminary (now Nouvel Catholic Central High School) in Saginaw and further seminary formation at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., and Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 20, 1975 by Bishop Francis F. Reh at St. Michael Church in Maple Grove. 

Father Byrne served as a professor of moral theology, medical ethics, and marriage theology at the former St. John Seminary in Plymouth from 1978 to 1980 and rector of that same seminary from 1980 to 1988. He also served as pastor at Holy Spirit Parish in Shields from 1989 to 1999 and Sacred Heart Parish in Mt. Pleasant from 1999 to 2008.  

He currently serves, and will continue to serve, as pastor of Frankenmuth’s Blessed Trinity Parish, where he has been assigned since July 2008, and as a columnist for the diocese’s quarterly FAITH Saginaw magazine, which began printing in January 2007. 

For more information about today’s announcement, visit Bishop Cistone’s blog, "Father of Mercy and Love." 

The Diocese of Saginaw was established in 1938 by Pope Pius XI and includes 105 parish communities with 22 elementary schools, one middle school and three high schools located across 11 counties in mid-Michigan.

Pope on John of Salisbury: 'Natural Law Must Inspire Positive Law'

VATICAN CITY (VIS) - Pope Benedict XVI focused his catechesis during this morning's general audience on the figure of John of Salisbury, a philosopher and theologian born in England towards the beginning of the twelfth century.

Educated in Paris and Chartres, John of Salisbury acted as counsellor to various archbishops of Canterbury at whose service he placed his vast knowledge and diplomatic skills. One of these was Thomas Becket whom John followed into exile in France when that archbishop fell into dispute with King Henry II who wished to affirmed his authority over the Church and thus limit her freedom. As an elderly man, John was appointed bishop of Chartres, where he remained until his death in 1180.

The Pope mentioned John of Salisbury's two principal works: the "Metaloghicon" (In defence of logic) and the "Policraticus" (The man of government). In the first of these John expresses the view that "believers and theologians who study the treasure of the faith deeply also open themselves to the practical knowledge which guides everyday actions; in other words, to moral laws and the exercise of virtue".

The central thesis of the "Policraticus" is that there exists "an objective and immutable truth, the origin of which is in God, a truth accessible to human reason and which concerns practical and social activities. This is a natural law from which human legislation, and political and religious authorities, must draw inspiration in order to promote the common good". This natural law is characterised by a property "which John calls 'equity', by which he means giving each person his rights. From here arise precepts which are legitimate to all peoples and which cannot under any circumstances be abrogated".

"The question of the relationship between natural law and positive law, as mediated by equity, is still of great importance", said Benedict XVI. "Indeed, in our own time, and especially in certain countries, we are witnessing a disquieting fracture between reason, which has the task of discovering the ethical values associated with human dignity, and freedom, which has the responsibility of accepting and promoting those values.

"Perhaps", he added, "John of Salisbury would remind us today that the only 'equitable' laws are those that defend the sacredness of human life and reject the legitimacy of abortion, euthanasia and unrestrained genetic experimentation; the laws that respect the dignity of marriage between a man and a woman, that are inspired by a correct understanding of the secularism of the State - a secularism that must always include the safeguarding of religious freedom - and that seek subsidiarity and solidarity at the national and international level.

"Otherwise", the Holy Father concluded: "we would end up with what John of Salisbury defined as the 'tyranny of the prince' or, as we would say, 'the dictatorship of relativism', a relativism which, as I said some years ago, 'recognises nothing as definite and has as its ultimate measure only the self and its own desires'".

December 15, 2009

Bishops Want Health Care Reform Aligned with Current Abortion Funding Laws; Urge Support for Menendez Amendment to Waive Waiting Period for Legal Immigrants

WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops again urged senators to place Hyde Amendment language into proposed health care reform legislation, a step that would  align the legislation with policies now governing all other federal health programs and the just-passed Consolidated Appropriations Act.
They made their request in a December 14 letter from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities (
In a separate letter, also sent Dec. 14, Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chair of the Domestic Policy Committee, urged support of the Menendez Amendment ( The Menendez Amendment, proposed by Rep. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), would give states the option to lift the five-year waiting period for legal immigrants to obtain Medicaid coverage.

The letter on the Hyde Amendment sought to clarify misrepresentation of an amendment sponsored by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Orrin Hatch ((R-UT) and Robert Casey (D-PA) that the  Senate tabled on December 8. The bishops pointed out the irony that senators supported the
policy of the Nelson/Hatch/Casey Amendment when they voted overwhelmingly for the Consolidated Appropriations Act on December 13. The appropriations act contains Hyde language banning federal funding for health coverage that includes elective abortion, and maintains laws protecting conscience rights such as the Hyde/Weldon Amendment.
A major problem with the current health care reform legislation in the Senate , Cardinal DiNardo said, is that “it explicitly authorizes the use of federal funds to subsidize health plans covering elective abortions for the first time in history.”
“Health care reform is too urgently needed to be placed at risk by one lobbying group’s insistence on changing the law. Before the Senate considers final votes on its health care reform legislation, please incorporate into this bill the longstanding and widely supported policies of current law,” Cardinal DiNardo added.
In supporting the Menendez Amendment, Cardinal DiNardo, Bishop Wester and Bishop Murphy noted that “legal immigrants, who work, pay taxes, and are on a path to citizenship, should have access to health care services, such as Medicaid, for which they help pay.
“Moreover, providing low-income legal immigrants access to Medicaid would help ensure that the general public health of immigrant communities and the nation is served,” they said.

December 9, 2009

Bishops Deeply Disappointed by Senate Vote to Table Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment

Bishops Call Vote a Grave Mistake and Serious Blow to Genuine Reform
Say the Senate Should Not Support Bill in its Current Form
Hope That House Provisions on Abortion Funding Prevail

WASHINGTON — “The Senate vote to table the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment is a grave mistake and a serious blow to genuine health care reform,” said Cardinal Francis George, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The Senate is ignoring the promise made by President Obama and the will of the American people in failing to incorporate longstanding prohibitions on federal funding for abortion and plans that include abortion."

Bishop William Murphy, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said: “Congress needs to retain existing abortion funding restrictions and safeguard conscience protections because the nation urgently needs health care reform that protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all. We will continue to work with Senators, Representatives and the Administration to achieve reform which meets these criteria. We hope the Senate will address the legislation’s fundamental flaw on abortion and remedy its serious problems related to conscience rights, affordability and treatment of immigrants.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said: “Congress needs to separate facts and truth from political rhetoric on abortion funding. Even our opponents claim they do not support federal funding for elective abortions and they want current restrictions to apply. The way to settle this often misleading debate is simply, clearly and explicitly to apply Hyde restrictions to all the federal funds in the legislation. That is what the House did and what the final bill must do. The Senate should not approve this bill in its current form."

Bishop John Wester, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, pointed out: “For many years the bishops have strongly supported accessible and affordable health care for all. Health care must protect, not threaten, human life and dignity; respect, not violate, consciences of providers, taxpayers, and others. We believe universal coverage should be truly universal, not deny health care to those in need because of where they come from or when they arrive here. The Senate proposal falls short in these areas. Immigrants deserve access to health care for their benefit and the common good of all of society. We urge Senators to resist amendments that would leave immigrants and their families behind as the nation reforms health care. We urge Senators to support amendments that improve health-care access for immigrants and their families and to oppose efforts that deny them access."

Cardinal George concluded: “While we deplore the Senate’s refusal to adopt the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment, we remain hopeful that the protections overwhelmingly passed by the House will be incorporated into needed reform legislation. Failure to exclude abortion funding will turn allies into adversaries and require us and others to oppose this bill because it abandons both principle and precedent.”

National Vocation Awareness Week to Be Celebrated January 10-16

WASHINGTON — The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week, January 10-16.

“This week provides the opportunity for parishes across the country to promote vocations through prayer and education,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “It is our responsibility to encourage young people to be generous in their response as they discern the possibility of a call to service in the Church. We must also ask parents, families and our parish communities to assist with this work, vocations are everyone’s business. As we pray for an increased number of seminarians and candidates for religious life, we recognize the importance of safeguarding the gift of vocations.”

Several initiatives to highlight priesthood and religious life are on-going in 2010. The Vatican-sponsored Year for Priests continues through June 2010 Dioceses are highlighting the role of priests in diocesan newspapers, on their Web sites and with other events.

An exhibit on the contributions of women religious in the United States, Women & Spirit, opens at the Smithsonian institution in Washington, January 14. More information on this traveling exhibit can be found at The Smithsonian is co-sponsoring this exhibit with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The U.S. bishops have also named promotion of vocations to priesthood and religious life as one of their current five priorities and are deciding on efforts to promote vocations, for example, through their Website,

Father David Toups, interim executive director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, added, “The church needs to help young people hear the Lord in prayer, so they can recognize him in their lives.

“This week reminds us that it is our responsibility to pray for vocations and to invite young people to consider a call to ordained ministry and consecrated life.”

The observance of National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW) began in 1976 when the National Conference of Catholic Bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year as the beginning of NVAW. In 1997, this celebration was moved to coincide with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on January 10 in 2010, marks the initiation of Jesus into public ministry. At his baptism Jesus is named the beloved Son of God. With this celebration the faithful recommit themselves to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. They are also initiated through their own baptism to be the Beloved of God, commissioned to proclaim Good News with their lives.

December 8, 2009

FAITH's Theology 101 columnist Dr. Ed Hogan gives the low down on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. View more FAITH Saginaw video's, including homilies by Bishop Joseph R. Cistone at

Watch Bishop Cistone's homily for the feast day on "Father of Mercy and Love".

December 7, 2009

U.S. Bishops Urge Senators to Support Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment on Health Care Reform; Urge Constituents to Back It

WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops have voiced support for the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment to the Senate health reform bill and have asked voters to back it.

The bishops took the position in a Dec. 7 letter to all U.S. senators, after Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Robert Casey (D-PA) proposed an amendment to prevent the health reform bill from using federal funds to pay for health plans that include elective abortions. The ban would be similar to the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, to ban federal funds in the Health and Human Services’ appropriations bill from paying for coverage that includes most abortions.

Similar bans are part of other federal programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, and included in the House-passed “Affordable Health Care for America Act.”

“We urgently ask you to support an essential amendment to be offered by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Robert Casey (D-PA) to keep in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding of health coverage that includes elective abortions,” the letter said.

The bishops also sent to the senators two fact sheets: Abortion and Conscience Problems in the Senate Health Care Reform: and the one on What the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment Does:

The letter was signed by Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration.

“This amendment will have the same effect as the Stupak-Smith-Ellsworth-Kaptur-Dahlkemper-Pitts Amendment already accepted in the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority,” the letter said. “Like that amendment, it does not change the current situation in our country: Abortion is legal and available, but no federal dollars can be used to pay for elective abortions or plans that include elective abortions. This amendment does not restrict abortion, or prevent people from buying insurance covering abortion with their own funds. It simply ensures that where federal funds are involved, people are not required to pay for other people’s abortions.”

The letter said that the bill currently before the Senate “allows the HHS Secretary to mandate abortion coverage throughout the government-run ‘community health insurance option.’ It also provides funding for other plans that cover unlimited abortions, and creates an unprecedented mandatory ‘abortion surcharge’ in such plans that will require pro-life purchasers to pay directly and explicitly for other people’s abortions. The bill does not maintain essential nondiscrimination protections for providers who decline involvement in abortion. The Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment simply corrects these grave departures from current federal policy.”

“We urge the Senate to support the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment keeping the health care bill abortion-neutral. As other amendments are offered to the bill that address our priorities on affordability and fair treatment of immigrants, we will continue to communicate our positions on these issues to the Senate,” the bishops said.

In supporting the amendment the bishops urged Catholics to work for passage by contacting their senators. One vehicle to do this is through

Bishop's Homilies now on Bishop's Blog

Check out homilies and other reflections from Bishop Joseph R. Cistone on the bishop's blog, "Father of Mercy and Love," launched today with his homily from the Second Sunday of Advent !!!

See Part II of this homily at

December 4, 2009


The Senate has begun consideration of its health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3950). Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) have submitted an amendment that, like the Stupak amendment, prevents this legislation from mandating abortion coverage or providing federal funds for coverage that includes elective abortions. The Senate is expected to vote on this amendment during the week of December 7, perhaps even early in the week. An updated Action Alert can be found at:

December 3, 2009

St. Stanislaus School receives $500 grant, to host world fair trade show

BAY CITY - A $500 grant will help St. Stanislaus School host a fair trade show this winter.

First grade teacher Jill Causley applied for the Helen Casey Grant from the Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools, that awarded $500 to the Catholic elementary school.

Causley wants to use the money to host an event called the Work of Human Hands Fair Trade Show

Read all of Andrew Dobson's story in The Bay City Times.