March 29, 2011

Cardinal to Senate: Respect Religious Freedom of All

WASHINGTON (USCCB) — “We remain firmly committed to the defense of religious liberty for all—not just for Catholics—because our commitment is to the dignity of each and every human person,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington, testifying on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights hearing on “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims."

“As a community that has been the target of religious discrimination, we understand the need today to bring attention to protecting the civil rights of our Muslim brothers and sisters,” Cardinal McCarrick said. “We see religious freedom as an essential foundation for our life together in our own nation and across the globe.”

Cardinal McCarrick spoke of current threats to religious freedom, noting, “When the very right of conscience is attacked, the ability to exercise religious beliefs is subverted. There are well known contemporary examples where the state would force religious groups and individuals to choose between following their religious beliefs and practices and following the dictates of law.”

He concluded, “As other countries wrestle with how to treat religious minorities, let them look to our nation where we work to ensure that their Muslim sisters and brothers are treated with dignity and their religious identity and beliefs are treated with respect. Let them see a people blessed with hard won religious freedom living out our commitment to the rights of all by demonstrating full respect for the identity, integrity and freedom of all religions.”

Cardinal McCarrick’s written testimony can be found online:

March 25, 2011

MCC Lansing Update, March 25, 2011

MCC Urges Tax Policy Committee to Retain State EITC

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) does more to lift low-income families and their children out of poverty than any other policy, and the state has an obligation to continue to work toward decreasing the number of children living below the poverty line, MCC testified before the House Tax Policy Committee this week.

Michigan Catholic Conference has made protecting the state EITC its top legislative priority this year as legislators and the administration have sought to eliminate the credit in order to help pay down the state’s budget deficit and to provide businesses with a substantial tax cut.

The House Tax Policy Committee over the course of several weeks is conducting hearings to evaluate the state’s tax structure, of which Governor Snyder’s administration has called for a complete overhaul. In order to provide businesses with an overall $1.8 billion tax cut, the governor has proposed eliminating the state Earned Income Tax Credit, taxing private and public pension programs (which currently are not taxed), and eliminating several other tax credits, including the Homestead Tax Credit.

All told, the governor’s proposal would eliminate the state’s $1.7 billion deficit while at the same time provide an 86 percent tax cut for businesses in Michigan.

The House Tax Policy Committee will continue to take testimony on the state’s tax structure next week, and any effort to reinstate funding for the state Earned Income Tax Credit will likely take place in this committee. MCC will continue to advocate for preservation of the state EITC throughout the legislative process.

A vote on funding for EITC is expected in the coming weeks, and an action alert will be sent to members of the Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network urging support for this important policy.

Conference Supports Continued Assistance Programs in DHS Budget

Conference staff testified this week in the House Appropriations Department of Human Services Subcommittee urging members to include in the department’s annual budget a measure that would allow those with past drug convictions to receive food and other basic assistance from the state.

Testimony before the House DHS subcommittee focused on allowing those convicted of past drug-related crimes to be eligible for state assistance through the Family Independence Grant program. The dollars that help fund this state program come from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families allowance, which gives states the choice of whether or not to allow such assistance.

MCC has long advocated for restorative justice, and believes that helping pregnant women who have previously been convicted of drug-related crimes, for example, should be eligible for basic assistance. Michigan also has a nationally recognized Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative, which works to reduce recidivism by helping parolees successfully return to their communities.
Staff will continue to follow this issue as committee members work to finalize the departmental budget.

Action Alert! Support For D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program Needed

Michigan Catholic Conference, working in solidarity with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has posted on its website an action alert item regarding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. This federally funded program allows eligible low-income families in the District of Columbia to use federal dollars to attend a private, including Catholic, school of their choice.

The Catholic Church has long taught that parents are the primary educators of their children and the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. Catholic social teaching emphasizes that poor and vulnerable persons deserve preferential concern when programs are being developed.

Members of the Catholic Legislative Advocate Network are encouraged to contact their member of Congress and urge reauthorization of this program. Background for the action alert and additional information may be found here. Please contact your member of Congress today!

Editor’s Note: The Michigan Legislature will be on spring break the next two weeks and will return to its regular session schedule the week of April 11.

Bishops Ask Administration to Weigh Use of Force in Libya in Light of Duty to Protect Human Life and Dignity

WASHINGTON (USCCB) — As the U.S. and other nations take military action to protect the people of Libya from their own government, the U.S. bishops asked the Obama administration to stay focused on this limited goal and mission, as well as the wellbeing of the civilian population.

“Important questions include: How is the use of force protecting the civilian population of Libya? Is the force employed proportionate to the goal of protecting civilians?” wrote Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in a March 24 letter to National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon. The bishop also urged that the use of force be continually evaluated in light of these questions: “Is it producing evils graver than the evil it hopes to address?” and “What are the implications of the use of force for the future welfare of the Libyan people and the stability of the region?”

“We know these are difficult questions to which there are few easy answers, but it is our moral responsibility as a nation to rigorously examine the use of military force in light of the need to protect human life and dignity,” said Bishop Hubbard.

Bishop Hubbard said the purpose articulated in UN Security Council Resolution 1973 to demand “a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians” appears to meet the traditional criterion of “just cause,” but said the U.S. bishops joined Pope Benedict XVI in following the military action in Libya with “great apprehension.”

The letter is available online:

March 24, 2011

President of USCCB Reiterates Bishops’ Resolve to Deal Firmly with Clerics Who Abuse Children

WASHINGTON (USCCB) — Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, reiterated the U.S. bishops’ resolve to deal firmly with clerics who abuse children in a March 22 statement.

He highlighted and endorsed efforts by bishops, clergy and laity to implement the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which was drafted by the bishops in 2002 to deal with the crisis of sexual abuse of minors by clerics. Archbishop Dolan said child abusers will not be tolerated in ministry.

“We remain especially firm in our commitment to remove permanently from public ministry any priest who committed such an intolerable offense,” he said.

The statement was developed during the USCCB Administrative Committee meeting in Washington. The Administrative Committee is the highest ranking body of bishops when the full body is not in session. It meets every September, March and November.

The full statement follows.

In light of the recent disclosures about the Church’s response to the sexual abuse of minors by priests, I have been asked by my brother bishops, gathered for the recent meeting of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to offer reassurances that this painful issue continues to receive our careful attention, that the protection of our children and young people is of highest priority, and that the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that we adopted in 2002 remains strongly in place.

Over the past nine years, we have constantly reviewed the high promises and rigorous mandates of the Charter, as we continually try to make it even more effective. Thanks to the input of our National Review Board, Catholic parents, professionals, the victim-survivor community, law enforcement officials, and our diocesan victim-assistance coordinators, we keep refining the efficiency of theCharter. We want to learn from our mistakes and we welcome constructive criticism. In fact, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a long-planned review of the Charter scheduled for our June meeting.

The arrival of April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, provides us the providential opportunity to unite with all Americans in a renewed resolve to halt the scourge of sexual abuse of youth in our society.

We bishops recommit ourselves to the rigorous mandates of the Charter, and renew our confidence in its effectiveness. We repeat what we have said in the Charter: “We make our own the words of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II: that the sexual abuse of young people is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God” (Address to the Cardinals of the United States and Conference Officers, April 23, 2002). We remain especially firm in our commitment to remove permanently from public ministry any priest who committed such an intolerable offense.

The annual outside audits by forensic experts will continue, checking that we remain faithful to the processes in place to protect our young people, promote healing of victims/survivors and restore trust. We also thank our diocesan review boards, and those who lead our extensive programs of child protection and background checks for all priests, deacons, teachers, youth workers and volunteers in our expansive apostolates to young people.

In short, the progress made must continue and cannot be derailed; we want to strengthen it even more; we can never stop working at it, because each child and young person must always be safe, loved and cherished in the Church. We are encouraged in this resolve by the words of Pope Benedict XVI to the bishops of the United States during his Apostolic Visit in 2008: “It is your God-given responsibility as pastors to bind up the wounds caused by every breach of trust, to foster healing, to promote reconciliation and to reach out with loving concern to those so seriously wronged. “

Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
March 22, 2011

March 23, 2011

On Anniversary of Archbishop Romero’s Death, Bishops Call U.S. to Do More for Latin America

WASHINGTON (USCCB) — On the anniversary of the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, the chairmen of various committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reflected on the relevance of the Archbishop’s witness for today.

“This week’s visit of President Obama to Archbishop Romero’s tomb reminds us of the Archbishop’s powerful legacy. He spoke with courage to political leaders to champion justice and peace, and we must do the same today,” said Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, of Albany, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“Archbishop Romero defended the rights of poor and marginalized persons of his day,” remarked Archbishop José Gomez, of Los Angeles, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration. “Today, moved by his example, we urge the President and the Congress to reach out to those at the margins of our society by adopting comprehensive immigration reform.”

“We also call on our political leaders to address the root causes of migration by working to reduce poverty, promote educational and economic opportunities, and protect human rights,” Bishop Hubbard said. “These were causes for which Archbishop Romero was martyred, and they remain our causes today.”

Catholics contribute over $7 million every year to USCCB’s Collection for the Church in Latin America. “In El Salvador alone, we have funded Church-based projects totaling over $3 million since 2000,” said Archbishop Gomez, who also chairs the USCCB’s Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America. “The Church is committed to Latin America; we ask our government to do more for the people of the region.”

March 16, 2011

Bishops Voice Solidarity with Japan, Urge Catholics to Support Efforts of Catholic Relief Services Following Earthquake

WASHINGTON (USCCB) — Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), expressed the prayers and solidarity of the U.S. bishops and Catholic for the people of Japan following the March 11 earthquake.

In his March 14 letter to Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga, SJ, of Osaka, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, Archbishop Dolan said the “estimates of suffering, loss of life and physical damage challenge our ability to grasp the reality of such an event.”

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the humanitarian agency of the U.S. bishops, is responding to the tragedy and receiving donations, said Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, chairman of the CRS board.

“These will be used for the immediate humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable and support the local Catholic Church in its on-going mission,” said Bishop Kicanas. Catholics interested in supporting the work of CRS can visit:

The full text of Archbishop Dolan’s letter follows:

Dear Archbishop Ikenaga,

I write today conscious of the terrible earthquake that has struck Japan. The first news reports of the preliminary estimates of suffering, loss of life and physical damage challenge our ability to grasp the reality of such a massive event.

My letter is to make a first contact with you to assure you of the prayers and solidarity of the bishops and faithful in the United States at this difficult moment. We commend the Church and the people of Japan to the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, asking her to care for all of those left in conditions of suffering because of the quake and the aftershocks.

I know that our Catholic Relief Services has already been in touch with Caritas in Japan. They are already studying the situation with the goal of being as helpful as possible in responding to the tragedy.

Again, Archbishop Okada, please know of our prayers and solidarity with you at this moment.
Faithfully in Christ,

Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Vatican launches JP2 YouTube Channel and Facebook Page as Beatification Draws Near

VATICAN CITY (VIS) - In view of the beatification of John Paul II on May 1, 2011, Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Centre (CTV) have organized a number of initiatives and made a wide range of documentary material available.

A new page dedicated to John Paul II for his beatification has been activated on YouTube. The page is available at and includes video clips on the pontificate year by year, as well as video clips with the Pope's voice in various languages and situations (on trips and in the Vatican).

These are audio recordings supplied and selected by the language programmes of Vatican Radio, which have then been mounted onto video by CTV. The audio of the Pope will be in the original language in which it was pronounced, with English-language subtitles indicating the place (country), day, month and year of the event.

The dedicated Youtube page - as well as the normal channel which has existed for some time in four languages - will be supplied with video clips of current events and information concerning the days of the beatification.

A new page has also been activated on Facebook concerning John Paul II in view of his beatification. It may be consulted at All the video clips uploaded to the Youtube channel will be available at the same time on this page.

"The aim is to diversify the instruments so as to give this initiative as great an exposure and as wide a coverage as possible. Unlike other initiatives already present on the Internet in various forms, initiatives by private individuals not associated with the Holy See, this carries the joint signatures of Vatican Radio and of the Vatican Television Centre, it has been agreed with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and is, of course, open to all users of Facebook.

"The general objective is to accompany the course of the beatification using the instruments technology makes available, making full use of the resources at our disposal and, at least in part, of the vast documentary archives held by Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Centre.

March 15, 2011

Nearly 250 publicly acknowledge their desire for full Communion before Bishop Cistone on Election weekend

SAGINAW - In their continuing journey to receive the Sacraments this coming Easter, 129 catechumens enrolled their names and 119 candidates responded to their call in the presence of Bishop Joseph R. Cistone during two liturgies at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption on March 12 and 13.

The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Coversion is part of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), the process in which interested adults and older children are introduced to the faith and prepare to receive the Sacraments of Initiation and full Communion with the Church.

The Rite of Election or Enrolment of Names for those who are unbaptized and the Rite of Calling the Candidates to Continuing Conversion for those who are baptized.

In these rites, the Church formally ratifies the Catechumens' readiness for the Sacraments of Initiation, and the Candidates' readiness to be received into full Communion with the Church. In turn the Catechumens - from now on known as the Elect - publicly acknowledge their desire to receive the Sacraments of Initiation, and the Candidates' their desire to be received into full Communion with the Catholic Church.

The Elect and Candidates are now set to receive the Sacraments during the Easter Vigil at their 60 respective parish communities across the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.

See more photos on Facebook.

March 14, 2011

Bishop encourages prayer, collection to benefit relief efforts in Japan

SAGINAW - Bishop Cistone issued a memo to local pastors and pastoral administrators today, ecouraging them to consider a special collection to benefit Catholic Relief Services' efforts in Japan following last week's earthquake and tsunami there.

"By this time, my own words are unnecessary and inadequate to describe the horror and devastation which has fallen upon Japan," Bishop Cistone wrote.

"Catholic Relief Services (CRS) personnel throughout the Pacific have been communicating with organizations of the Catholic Church in these areas and stand ready to assist. Caritas Japan, the humanitarian organization of the Japanese Catholic Conference, is assessing the needs. CRS has programs in the Philippines and Indonesia, and also works with Caritas Oceania which is active in many Pacific islands that might be affected. Central American countries where CRS works could also be in danger. In the next few days, once additional information becomes available, CRS will develop a response taking into account all affected countries."

"The people of Japan and other affected areas need our help. I would encourage your parish to consider taking up a voluntary collection for CRS in order to support these emergency efforts. Please know that the funds will be used for immediate humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable and for support to the local Catholic Church in its on-going mission."

"Please join me in continued prayers for those who have died in this tragic occurrence as well as for those who endeavor to rebuild their lives."
To learn more about relief efforts in Japan, you can refer to

Bishop's reflection for the 1st week of Lent

Bishop Cistone will continue to offer a weekly reflection each Monday through April 25.

March 11, 2011

Anglican-Catholic Dialogue Looks at Moral Discernment, Homosexuality

WASHINGTON (USCCB) — Anglican and Catholic ecumenical leaders examined moral discernment and homosexuality at their current round of dialogue where they explore the positions of the Catholic and Episcopalian churches on theological issues.

The meeting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation in the USA (ARC-USA) held the sixth meeting of its current dialogue in Berkeley, California, February 28-March 1. Bishop Ronald P. Herzog of the Catholic Diocese Alexandria, Louisiana and Bishop John Bauerschmidt of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee chaired the meeting.

Dialogue members continued to study the theme of the current round, “Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Common Ground and Divergences,” and considered a preliminary draft of some sections of a statement on this theme that they expect to adopt. Members also heard a paper by Rev. Matthew S. C. Olver summarizing the discussions so far in this round and outlining areas of disagreement and convergence.

Members also examined statements by both churches on the question of homosexuality. These included “To Set Our Hope on Christ, A Response to the Invitation of Windsor Report 135,” a 2005 unofficial response by The Episcopal Church to a request from the Anglican Consultative Council and “Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church,” an unofficial statement prepared in 2010 by the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church. Two Catholic statements also were studied, including “Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers,” by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family (1997) and the USCCB’s “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care,” which was adopted by the full body of bishops in 2006.

“One of the primary tasks of this round of dialogue is to examine what has led our churches to come to very different conclusions regarding the morality of certain actions,
especially in the area of human sexuality,” Bishop Herzog explained. “We also acknowledge that we agree on many other moral questions. I have been impressed by the way in which both sides have been listening to each other with a spirit of patience and generosity as we search for common ground on these vexing moral issues.”

At the meeting the dialogue team welcomed The Rev. Canon Dr. Beverly F. Gibson, Sub Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Mobile, Alabama, as a new member from the Episcopal Church. In addition, Dr. Christopher Wells, Executive Director of The Living Church Foundation in Milwaukee, attended as a theological consultant. Two faculty members of local Catholic theological schools also attended as consultants: Jesuit Father William O’Neill, Associate Professor of Social Ethics at the Jesuit School of Theology, and Holy Cross Sister Marianne Farina, Assistant Professor at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology.

The next meeting of the Consultation is slated for August 22-23, in Washington.

In addition to the co-chair, Catholic members of the dialogue include Father Charles Caccavale, S.T.D., Professor of Moral Theology at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception; Theresa Notare, Ph.D., of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Jesuit Father Thomas P. Rausch, Ph.D., Department of Theological Studies of Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles; and Paulist Father Ronald G. Roberson, Ph.D., Associate Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and staff to the dialogue.

Representatives of The Episcopal Church, in addition to Bishop Bauerschmidt and Canon Gibson, include the Rev. Matthew S. C. Olver, Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, Texas; Mary Reath, governor of the Anglican Center in Rome and author of "Rome and Canterbury: The Elusive Search for Unity" (2007); Dr. Timothy Sedgwick, Professor of Christian Ethics at Virginia Theological Seminary; the Rev. Canon. J. Robert Wright, Ph.D, Professor of Church History at the General Theological Seminary in New York, New York; and the Rev. Thomas Ferguson, Ph.D., Ecumenical Officer of The Episcopal Church and staff to the dialogue.

A list of the agreed statements released by the consultation as well as links to earlier press releases can be found on the USCCB website at:

March 8, 2011

Bishop Cistone to distribute ashes during Ash Wednesday Mass at Cathedral

WHEN : Wednesday, March 9, 2011 12:00 p.m.

Bishop Cistone will bless the ashes and sprinkle them with holy water before the faithful come forward to receive the ashes on their foreheads, all are welcome to receive the ashes. The ashes come from blessed palms that were distributed last year on Palm Sunday and later burned.

WHERE: Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption, 615 Hoyt Ave., Saginaw

SAGINAW — The Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption.

In the Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the season of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.

While Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, all Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass on this day to mark the beginning of the Lenten Season. During the Mass all are welcome to come forward to receive the ashes as a sign of repentance and mortality. The Sign of the Cross will be traced on each person’s forehead and a blessing will be said.

The Church emphasizes the penitential nature of Ash Wednesday and Catholics who are between the ages of 18 and 59 are called to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, meaning they should eat only one full meal and two smaller meals without eating between meals. Also, all who are 14 and older are called to abstain from eating red meat (beef or pork), food made from animal fat, or poultry on those days and all Fridays during the season of Lent.

Throughout the Lenten season, Bishop Cistone will offer weekly reflections that focus on prayer and Christian living, with special attention to the abundant graces of God.

Each week, Bishop Cistone will suggest a spiritual exercise to help the faithful grow closer to the Lord during the holy season of Lent. The first reflection, in preparation of Ash Wednesday, is already available on the diocesan website, Bishop Cistone will continue to offer a weekly reflection each Monday, beginning March 14 through April 25.

March 3, 2011

President of U.S. Bishops Calls President Obama's Refusal to Defend Defense of Marriage Act an ‘Alarming and Grave Injustice’

WASHINGTON (USCCB) — “Our nation and government have the duty to recognize and protect marriage, not tamper with and redefine it, nor to caricature the deeply held beliefs of so many citizens as ‘discrimination,’” said Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

His statement followed the February 23 announcement that President Obama has instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a move Archbishop Dolan called an “alarming and grave injustice.”

Archbishop Dolan’s full statement follows:

The announcement on February 23 that the President has instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is an alarming and grave injustice. Marriage, the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife, is a singular and irreplaceable institution. Only a man and a woman are capable of the “two-in-one-flesh” union of husband and wife. Only a man and a woman have the ability to bring children into the world.

Along with that ability comes responsibility, which society historically reinforces with laws that bind mothers and fathers to each other and their children. This family unit represents the most basic and vital cell of any society, protecting the right of children to know and be known by, to love and be loved by, their mother and father. Thus, marriage represents the bedrock of the common good of society, its very foundation and future.Contrary to the Attorney General’s statement, DOMA does not single out people based on sexual “orientation” or inclination. Every person deserves to be treated with justice, compassion, and respect, a proposition of natural law and American law that we as Catholics vigorously promote. Unjust discrimination against any person is always wrong. But DOMA is not “unjust discrimination”; rather, it merely affirms and protects the time-tested and unalterable meaning of marriage. The suggestion that this definition amounts to “discrimination” is grossly false and represents an affront to millions of citizens in this country.

The decision also does not stand the test of common sense. It is hardly “discrimination” to say that a husband and a wife have a unique and singular relationship that two persons of the same sex—or any unmarried persons—simply do not and cannot have. Nor is it “discrimination” to believe that the union of husband and wife has a distinctive and exclusive significance worthy of promotion and protection by the state. It is not “discrimination” to say that having both a mother and a father matters to and benefits a child. Nor is it “discrimination” to say that the state has more than zero interest in ensuring that children will be intimately connected with and raised by their mother and father.

Protecting the definition of marriage is not merely permissible, but actually necessary as a matter of justice. Having laws that affirm the vital importance of mothers and fathers—laws that reinforce, rather than undermine, the ideal that children should be raised by their own mother and father—is essential for any just society. Those laws serve not only the good of the spouses and their children, but the common good. Those laws are now under relentless attack. If we forget the meaning of marriage, we forget what it means to be a human person, what it means to be a man or a woman. Have we wandered away so far in our society as to forget why men and women matter, and eroded the most central institution for our children and for our future?

The Administration’s current position is not only a grave threat to marriage, but to religious liberty and the integrity of our democracy as well. Our nation and government have the duty to recognize and protect marriage, not tamper with and redefine it, nor to caricature the deeply held beliefs of so many citizens as “discrimination.” On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I express my deep disappointment over the Administration’s recent decision. I have written of these concerns to the President in separate correspondence, and I pray that he and the Department of Justice may yet make the right choice to carry out their constitutional responsibility, defending the irreplaceable institution of marriage, and in so doing protect the future generations of our children.

March 2, 2011

Bishop to utilize social media to share weekly Lenten reflections with faithful

SAGINAW-The Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, is using the popularity of YouTube and Facebook, to guide his people through the Christian season of Lent.

Bishop Cistone will offer weekly Lenten messages that focus on prayer and Christian living, with special attention to the abundant graces of God.

"I try to be physically present to the people of the diocese as much as possible," Bishop Cistone said. "When I am unable to be with them in person, I believe I have a great opportunity - through the use of technology - to continue to offer myself as their spiritual shepherd."

Each week, Bishop Cistone will suggest a spiritual exercise to help the faithful grow closer to the Lord during the holy season of Lent. The first reflection, in preparation of Ash Wednesday, is available on the diocesan website. Bishop Cistone will continue to offer a weekly reflection each Monday, beginning March 14 through April 25.

The reflections also will air daily at 11:56 a.m. and 3:56 p.m. on Ave Maria Radio WMAX 1440 AM.

In the calendar of the Catholic Church, Lent is a season of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which takes place this year on March 9.

March 1, 2011

Catholic Conference Supports Renewed Effort to Ban Partial-Birth Abortion in State Law

LANSING (MCC) – Michigan Catholic Conference released the following comments from President/CEO Paul A. Long regarding Senate Bill 160, legislation which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee today that would ban partial-birth abortion in this state:

“There are few practices known to mankind that are more gruesome and deplorable than that known as partial-birth abortion, where a viable child is partially delivered from his or her mother before an abortionist kills the child by puncturing the skull with a pair of scissors. The fact that there is opposition to banning this heinous practice speaks to the injustice unborn children face every day. Considering Senate Bill 160 mirrors the federal partial-birth abortion ban found constitutional in 2007 by the United States Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart, there should be no reason to question the legality of this widely-supported measure.

“Pew Research Center surveys have found that upwards of 75 percent of the general public support keeping partial-birth abortion illegal. According to Pew: ‘Even among those who say abortion should be legal in all cases, almost half (49%) believe that partial-birth abortion procedures should be illegal. Overall, only 17% of Americans say that partial-birth abortion should be legal.’ Unfortunately, partial-birth abortion is legal in Michigan due to court challenges and executive vetoes. It is time for this injustice to end!

“It is the hope of the Michigan Catholic Conference that Senate Bill 160 sails through the Legislature, as similar measures have done on four separate occasions over the last 15 years, and is signed into law by Governor Snyder.”

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.

Michigan Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Legislation Timeline:

1996: Legislation banning partial-birth abortion sponsored by Representative James Ryan signed into law by Governor John Engler (P.A. 273 of 1996). Michigan becomes first state in the nation to ban partial-birth abortion. Legal challenge filed by American Civil Liberties Union. Legislation deemed unconstitutional by Judge Gerald Rosen on July 31, 1997.

1999: Governor Engler signs “Infant Protection Act” (P.A. 107 of 1999) sponsored by Representative Joel Gougeon, which bans partial-birth abortion. Federal Judge Arthur Tarnow delays effect as the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled Stenberg v. Carhart, a similar partial birth abortion ban in the state of Nebraska, unconstitutional. Judge Tarnow enjoins the Michigan law, citing Stenberg's control of the Michigan case. Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm fails to appeal the decision.

2003: Governor Jennifer Granholm vetoes the “Legal Birth Definition Act,” sponsored by Senator Michelle McManus, which bans partial birth abortion and declares birth to be at the point where any portion of the child is vaginally delivered outside of the mother’s body. Citizen’s initiative to ban partial birth abortion by bypassing the governor is launched after the Senate falls one vote shy of a veto override. “People’s Override” initiative is successful as hundreds of thousands of signatures prompt the Legislature to address and overwhelmingly support the initiative. Planned Parenthood files suit and U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood later finds the law unconstitutional, citing an “undue burden.” Attorney General Mike Cox appeals the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which in June 2007 ruled the Legal Birth Definition Act unconstitutional.

2008: Governor Jennifer Granholm again vetoes legislation (Senate Bill 776) that would have banned partial birth abortion in Michigan. The legislation mirrors the federal Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007. SB 776 passed the Senate 24-13 and the House of Representatives 74-32 with wide bipartisan support. Catholic Conference sites Granholm's "continued indifference toward human life."

Knights of Columbus giving Generation JP2 opportunity to say "Thank You"

In honor of Pope John Paul II's approaching beatification on May 1, the Knights of Columbus news website Headline Bistro is inviting all members of the John Paul II Generation to put into words there own expressions of thanks.

According to the website, the Knights of Columbus will take the messages to Rome for the events of the beatification in May.