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Friday, 17 April 2015 15:03

(USCCB News Archives can be accessed at www.usccb.org/news/)
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WASHINGTON — Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI, retired archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from 2007-2010, was an exemplary servant of the Church, distinguished by his kindness and intellect, said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of USCCB.
Cardinal George, who retired in 2014, died April 17, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 78.
Archbishop Kurtz’s statement follows:
“The death of an exemplary churchman such as Cardinal Francis George brings much sadness at a time of joy and resurrection. We find peace in knowing that, after so much suffering, he has been raised up with our Lord. As archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Cardinal George led as a kindly servant and unmatched intellectual, a man who encouraged everyone to see how God makes us all brother and sister to one another. I join with my brother bishops in thanking God for the gift of his witness and invite all to pray for the faithful repose of his soul.”

April 15, 2015
WASHINGTON — Two pieces of legislation amount to a step in the right direction toward meaningful criminal justice reform, said the bishop who chairs the Domestic Justice and Human Development Committee of the U.S. bishops and the president-elect of Catholic Charities USA in two letters to the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee, April 14.
“Rigid sentencing policies for non-violent offenses are costly, ineffective and can be detrimental to the good of persons, families and communities. Prolonged incarceration contributes to family instability and poverty,” wrote Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami and Dominican Sister Donna Markham in their letter to Senators Charles Grassley and Patrick Leahy, supporting the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015 (S. 502/H.R. 920). The bill would expand judicial sentencing options for non-violent drug offenses, permit certain drug offenders to seek sentence reductions, and promote recidivism reduction programs.
Archbishop Wenski and Sister Markham also voiced support for the Corrections Oversight, Recidivism Reduction, and Eliminating Costs for Tax-payers in Our National System Act of 2015 (CORRECTIONS Act, S.467), which promotes recidivism reduction by requiring lower-risk prisoners to participate in re-entry training programs with faith-based, community and non-profit organizations in order to earn up to 25 percent of their sentences.
“While these proposals are modest, they highlight the long overdue need in our country to reform our broken criminal justice system,” said Archbishop Wenski.
The Smarter Sentencing Act letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/criminal-justice-restorative-justice/usccb-ccusa-letter-to-senate-judiciary-on-smarter-sentencing-act-2015-04-14.cfm
The CORRECTIONS Act letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/criminal-justice-restorative-justice/usccb-ccusa-letter-to-senate-judiciary-on-corrections-act-2015-04-14.cfm

April 14, 2015
WASHINGTON — Violent conflicts in Syria, Iraq, the Holy Land, Libya, Nigeria and Kenya exemplify why Congress should support a bill that would advance international religious freedom, said the bishop who chairs the International Justice and Peace Committee of the U.S. Bishops.
“Passage of H.R. 1150 would be an important first step in improving the ability of our nation to advance religious freedom globally. It would signify the determination of the United States to promote and protect this most fundamental of human rights,” wrote Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, in his April 10 letter to the House of Representatives.
The Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2015 (H.R. 1150),  a bipartisan bill introduced by Representatives Chris Smith (R–N.J.) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), would protect religious freedom through increased interagency coordination; sanctions against countries, individuals and non-state actors; expanded diplomatic training and foreign assistance; and the reauthorization of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom through 2021.
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/letter-to-house-supporting-international-religious-freedom-act-2015-04-10.cfm

April 13, 2015
WASHINGTON — Two illustrated storybooks offer elementary school-aged children, their parents and teachers examples of how to put their faith in action and participate in solutions to important problems related to the life and dignity of others. The books provide much-needed resources in Catholic social teaching for this age group and are accompanied by age-appropriate learning resources.
“Green Street Park” is a story about a young boy, his family, and community, who learn to care for God’s creation and their own neighborhood by imitating the model of St. Francis of Assisi. In “Drop by Drop,” students at a Catholic school “journey” across the world to Burkina Faso, West Africa, and learn how a lack of water affects the lives of children there. The students learn about the work of Catholic Relief Services, see how the problem gets solved, and make a plan to help.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has published the books through Loyola Press.  
“These beautifully illustrated books are a true treasure for parents as well as all educators in teaching children how they, as the followers of Jesus, can solve problems affecting human life and dignity in our backyards and half a world away,” said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the bishops’ domestic anti-poverty program.
Bishop Soto added, “The Story of ‘Green Street Park’ shows the practical beauty of Jesus’ words in Mark’s Gospel, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand.’ And ‘Drop by Drop’ is a beautiful metaphor for justice that will roll like a river. The story will help young and old plumb their faith as well as their imagination for the untapped resources of the Spirit seeking to renew the face of the earth.”
With “Care for God’s creation” a prominent theme in both books, they also serve as a resource to help families, parishes and schools prepare for the release of Pope Francis’ anticipated encyclical on environmental stewardship.
“These books help our children realize and understand the connection to their peers at home and around the world. It’s a perspective that is essential to growing into globally aware adults who care about their brothers and sisters everywhere and the environment we live in,” said Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian aid agency of the Catholic community in the U.S.
During the week of Earth Day, April 20-24, 2015, the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services will hold a social media contest and give away some free copies.
Also available are “black line masters,” or online educational supplements for teachers to use as worksheets with their classes, as well as “Pray Me a Story” reflections for use with the books.
The books can be ordered online at www.loyolapress.com/twofeetoflove.
Editors: Additional information about the books, along with images to download for sharing, are at www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/two-feet-storybooks.cfm.

April 13, 2015
WASHINGTON — The adoption of a framework for Iran’s nuclear program is a step “important in advancing a peaceful resolution of the serious questions that have been raised regarding Iran’s nuclear program,” said the bishop who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace Committee of the U.S. bishops in letters to Secretary of State John Kerry, April 8, and Congress, April 13.
“The alternative to an agreement leads toward armed conflict, an outcome of profound concern to the Church,” wrote Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico. “We welcome the most recent step the United States and its international partners has taken with Iran. We encourage our nation to continue down this path. Now is the time for dialogue and building bridges which foster peace and greater understanding.”
Bishop Cantú noted that Pope Francis prayed for the success of the framework as a step “toward a more secure and fraternal world,” April 5, and that the bishops’ International Justice and Peace Committee had long advocated for diplomacy and dialogue to ensure nuclear nonproliferation in Iran.
The letter to Secretary Kerry is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/iran/letter-to-secretary-of-state-kerry-from-bishop-cantu-on-iran-negotiations-2015-04-08.cfm

The letter to Congress is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/iran/letter-to-congress-on-iran-negotiations-2015-04-13.cfm

April 7, 2015

WASHINGTON — The 2015 class of men ordained to the priesthood report that they were, on average, about 17 when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood and encouraged to consider a vocation by an average of four people. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say they were encouraged by a parish priest, as well as friends (46 percent), parishioners (45 percent), and mothers (40 percent). On average, they lived in the diocese or eparchy for which they will be ordained for 15 years before entering seminary. Religious ordinands knew the members of their religious institute an average of six years before entering.
The total number of potential ordinands for the class of 2015, 595, is up from from 477 in 2014 and 497 in 2013.
The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) gathered the date for “The Class of 2015: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood.” CARA collects the data annually for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Approximately 69 percent of the 595 potential ordinands reported to CARA. These 411 respondents include 317 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood, from 120 different dioceses and archdioceses, and 94 ordinands to the religious priesthood.
The full report can be found online: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/index.cfm
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, found that the data gave reason for hope but also provide areas for further growth.

“It is encouraging to see the slight increase in the number of ordinations this year in the United States,” Bishop Burbidge said. “When asked about the positive influences they encountered while discerning the call, those to be ordained responded that the support from their family, parish priest, and Catholic schools ranked very high.”
Father W. Shawn McKnight, executive director of the Secretariat, cited educational debt as a growing concern. “Over 26 percent of those ordained carried educational debt at the time they entered the seminary, averaging a little over $22,500 in educational debt at entrance to the seminary. Considering the high percentage of the men ordained already having earned an undergraduate degree, it will be important to find ways to assist in debt reduction in the future.”
Among the survey’s major findings:

  • The average age for the Class of 2015 is 34. The median age (midpoint of the distribution) is 31. Eight in 10 respondents are between 25 and 39. This distribution is slightly younger than in 2014, but follows the pattern in recent years of average age at ordination in the mid-thirties.
  • Two-thirds (69 percent) report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white. Compared to the adult Catholic population of the United States, they are more likely to be of Asian or Pacific Islander background (10 percent of responding ordinands), but less likely to be Hispanic/Latino (14 percent of responding ordinands). Compared to diocesan ordinands, religious ordinands are less likely to report their race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white.
  • One-quarter (25 percent) were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, Poland and Vietnam. On average, respondents born in another country have lived in the United States for 12 years. Between 20 and 30 percent of ordinands to diocesan priesthood for each of the last ten years were born outside of the United States.
  • Most ordinands have been Catholic since infancy, although 7 percent became Catholic later in life. Eighty-four percent report that both of their parents are Catholic and more than a third (37 percent) have a relative who is a priest or a religious.
  • More than half completed college (60 percent) before entering the seminary. One in seven (15 percent) entered the seminary with a graduate degree. One in three (34 percent) report entering the seminary while in college. The most common fields of study for ordinands before entering the seminary are theology or philosophy (20 percent), liberal arts (19 percent), and science (13 percent).
  • Half of responding ordinands (51 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is a rate higher than that of all Catholic adults in the United States. In addition, ordinands are somewhat more likely than other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school and they are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (45 percent, compared to 7 percent among U.S. Catholic adults).
  • Six in ten ordinands (61 percent) report some type of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education. Four percent of responding ordinands report prior service in the U.S. Armed Forces. About one in six ordinands (16 percent) report that either parent had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Eight in 10 (78 percent) indicate they served as an altar server and about half (51 percent) reporting service as a lector. One in seven (14 percent) participated in a World Youth Day before entering the seminary.
  • About seven in 10 report regularly praying the rosary (70 percent) and participating in Eucharistic adoration (70 percent) before entering the seminary.
  • Almost half (48 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood. On average, two individuals are said to have discouraged them.

April 2, 2015

WASHINGTON — Father Ralph B. O’Donnell has been appointed executive director of the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The appointment is effective July 1. Father O’Donnell, 45, is a priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska, and has served as associate director of the secretariat since the beginning of the year. He succeeds Father W. Shawn McKnight, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, who has served as executive director since 2010.
“Father O’Donnell brings a wonderful blend of experience to the work of supporting clergy and religious life, from his service as a pastor to his work in vocations, the permanent diaconate and seminary formation. This will be a great benefit to the Conference, especially as the Church observes a year dedicated to the gifts of men and women religious,” said Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, USCCB general secretary, who made the appointment.
Father O’Donnell holds a bachelor’s degree in religion from Conception Seminary College in Conception, Missouri (1993), a master’s of divinity from St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois (1997) and a master’s in spirituality from Creighton University in Omaha (2000). He was ordained on June 7, 1997. After ordination, he has served as associate pastor of Mary Our Queen Parish (1997-2001) and St. Vincent de Paul Parish (2001-2003) in Omaha, chaplain of the Omaha chapter of Legatus (2001-2011), vocation director for the Archdiocese of Omaha (2003-2008), pastor of St. Bridget and St. Rose Parishes in Omaha (2008-2011), director of the permanent diaconate for the Archdiocese of Omaha (2008-2011), vice rector/dean of students for Conception Seminary College (2011-2015).
The USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations assists the bishops in promoting, supporting and educating about the Church’s pastoral needs and concerns for the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life. The committee, which is currently chaired by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, develops foundational documents and appropriate resources that promote the effective ministry of priests, religious and vocations. It also plays a lead role in the United States promoting the Year of Consecrated Life, which began November 30, 2014, and will close on World Day of Consecrated Life, February 2, 2016.

March 31, 2015
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Father George D. Gallaro, 67, a priest of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, Massachusetts, as bishop of the Byzantine Eparchy of Piano degli Albanesi in Palermo, Italy. Father Gallaro currently serves as professor of Canon Law at St. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Seminary in Pittsburgh and as judicial vicar of the Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, March 31, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
George D. Gallaro was born January 16, 1948, in Pozuolo, Sicily. He received a bachelor’s in philosophy from the Seminario Diocesano Noto, Italy, in 1968. He received a certificate in liturgical theology from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Rome, in 1980, a doctorate in Eastern Church Law from the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome, in 1981, and a licentiate in ecumenical theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome, in 1994.
He was ordained May 27, 1972, in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and incardinated in the Greek-Melkite Eparchy of Newton in September 1987. He served as a parochial vicar and instructor of catechesis in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For the Melkite Eparchy, he served in the marriage tribunal (1982-1986), as a seminary instructor (1982-1991), secretary to Archbishop Joseph Tawil (1983-1990), judicial vicar (1986-1992), chancellor and eparchial consultor (1983-1992). He was a member and collaborator of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from 1992-1994 and rector of St. Gregory Melkite Seminary in Newton from 1994-1996.
Bishop-elect Gallaro is the author of dozens of articles, dealing largely with issues from the perspective of Eastern Catholics, including ecumenism, marriage and Canon Law. He is a member of the Canon Law Society of America and the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches. He speaks English, Italian, French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, some Albanian and Portuguese, and a little Arabic.
The Byzantine Eparchy of Piano degli Albanesi has been vacant since the retirement of Bishop Sotír Ferrara in April 2013.

March 30, 2015

WASHINGTON — Thousands of people across the United States will be welcomed into the Catholic Church at this year’s Easter vigil, April 4, including a retired Marine captain who appeared on the cover of National Geographic, a woman from The Gambia now living in the Pacific Northwest and a woman from Pittsburgh whose faith journey has drawn her own mother back to the Church.
According to the 2014 Official Catholic Directory, there were 39,654 catechumens, or those being baptized, confirmed and receiving first Communion, and 66,831 candidates received into full Communion with the Catholic Church in the United States in 2013, the most recent year for which this data is available. Over 50 of the nearly 200 dioceses in the United States reported numbers for 2015 to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In the Diocese of Oakland, California, Aaron Tam, a retired Marine sergeant, will receive the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation and first Communion) at Easter Vigil, after twice having to delay his initiation into the Church due to deployments. Tam, who was seriously injured by a detonation during a tour of duty in Iraq, appeared on the cover of the February 2015 issue of National Geographic, dedicated to soldiers recovering from traumatic brain injuries. He is one of 349 catechumens in the Diocese of Oakland, along with 279 who are being received into full Communion.
Also in California, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest diocese in the United States, reports 1,828 catechumens being baptized this year.
Among the 665 adults to be baptized by the Archdiocese of Seattle, Amie Bensouda of Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Sammamish, Washington, is a native of The Gambia. She was raised Muslim but exposed to the Catholic faith attending a school run by nuns, the only education available to her as a woman.
Among the 196 catechumens and 383 candidates in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, a woman named Becky is completing the sacraments of initiation after being baptized Catholic but never receiving a formal religious education. Becky will be confirmed and receive first Communion. Becky was accompanied by her fiancé through her journey, and they will be married in August. After she and her fiancé shared their experience with her mother, Becky made her first confession and her mother made her first confession in 25 years, March 16.
Also in Pennsylvania, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia reports 243 catechumens and 404 candidates for full Communion, the Diocese of Harrisburg reports 100 catechumens, and the Diocese of Allentown reports 96 catechumens and 256 candidates. In Ohio, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati reports 395 catechumens and 470 candidates, the Diocese of Columbus reports 232 catechumens and 300 candidates, and the Diocese of Youngstown reports 103 catechumens and 166 candidates.
The Archdiocese of Washington reports 623 catechumens and 694 candidates. The Archdiocese of Baltimore reports 207 catechumens and 400 candidates. The Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, reports 331 catechumens and 373 candidates. The Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, reports 94 catechumens and 103 candidates.
The Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, reports 600 catechumens and 700 candidates. In Florida, the Diocese of St. Petersburg reports 366 catechumens and 589 candidates, the Diocese of Palm Beach reports 228 catechumens and 493 candidates, and the Diocese of Orlando reports 491 catechumens. The Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, reports 126 catechumens and 257 candidates. The Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, reports 167 catechumens and 325 candidates.
In New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn reports 579 catechumens and 43 candidates, the Diocese of Rochester reports 139 catechumens and 152 candidates, the Diocese of Buffalo reports 86 catechumens and 128 candidates, and the Diocese of Syracuse reports 70 catechumens and 131 candidates. The Diocese of Camden, New Jersey reports 175 catechumens. The Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts reports 21 catechumens and 33 candidates. The Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, reports 85 catechumens and 82 candidates. The Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island reports 75 catechumens and 120 candidates.
In Kentucky, the Archdiocese of Louisville reports 225 catechumens and 296 candidates, and the Diocese of Owensboro reports 74 catechumens and 147 candidates. The Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, reports 57 catechumens and 166 candidates. The Diocese of Little Rock reports 226 catechumens and 341 candidates. The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, reports 141 catechumens and 155 candidates.
In Louisiana, the Diocese of Lafayette reports 82 catechumens and 122 candidates, the Diocese of Shreveport reports 45 catechumens and 87 candidates, and the Diocese of Lake Charles reports 64 catechumens and 118 candidates. The Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi, reports 76 catechumens and 112 candidates. The Diocese of Austin, Texas, reports 317 catechumens and 419 candidates. The Diocese of Salt Lake City reports 257 catechumens and 142 candidates.
In Illinois, Diocese of Joliet reports 114 catechumens and 196 candidates, and the Diocese of Peoria reports 105 catechumens and 232 candidates. The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, reports 208 catechumens and 217 candidates. In Michigan, the Diocese of Grand Rapids reports 190 catechumens and 249 candidates, and the Diocese of Marquette reports 34 catechumens and 42 candidates. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee reports 180 catechumens and 245 candidates. The Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, reports nine catechumens and 52 candidates. The Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, reports 18 catechumens and 77 candidates.
The Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska, reports 105 catechumens and 250 candidates. The Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, reports 90 catechumens and 163 candidates. The Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas, reports 82 catechumens and 56 candidates.
More information on the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) process is available online: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/who-we-teach/rite-of-christian-initiation-of-adults/index.cfm

March 30, 2015
WASHINGTON — The 2015 annual Catholic Home Missions Appeal will be taken up in many dioceses the weekend of April 25-26. This appeal helps to sustain nearly 45 percent of all dioceses and eparchies in rural, struggling areas in the country and in a number of U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific.
Catholic Home Missions (CHM), Strengthening the Church at Home, helps to support evangelization, catechesis, seminarian education, lay ministry training, Hispanic ministry, and other pastoral programs for dioceses in need. The Appeal is a significant source of support to bolster domestic Catholic pastoral programs. “It can be surprising to hear about the great need of many of our dioceses here in the United States. For those who have never experienced life in a mission diocese it can be hard to imagine not having access to a priest or basic materials to teach the faith,” said Bishop Peter F. Christensen of Boise, Idaho, chairman of the  U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions. “This collection supports our neighbors here at home and provides for their spiritual needs.”
Last year, the USCCB Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions approved more than $9 million in grants for 2015. The Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, is one of the 83 dioceses that received a grant. It is using CHM funds to provide basic catechesis materials to Spanish-speaking Catholics, to conduct a ministry program for deaf children and their families, and to support the work of a few priests on four Native American reservations serving over 24,000 people.
In the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, the Catholic population is less than 3 percent, and in rural areas, many priests serve three or four parishes. A grant from Catholic Home Missions funded St. Barnabas School in Birmingham, where the students are primarily African American and Hispanic and many are non-Catholic and from low-income families. The grant supports the school’s mission of providing high-quality education for all of its students, creates community, evangelizes, and helps bridge racial divides.
With a grant from Catholic Home Missions, the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, is training seven seminarians for the priesthood. They will return to the diocese to assist in evangelization efforts and pastoral tasks currently shared by only 36 active and 12 retired priests, across 14 counties, serving nearly 35,000 Catholics.

March 27, 2015

WASHINGTON — Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran bishops visited with young mothers and children who have fled violence in their home countries and are now incarcerated at Dilley Detention Center in Dilley, Texas, on March 27. The faith leaders called upon the federal government to halt the practice of family detentions, citing the harmful effects on mothers, children and the moral character of society.
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, Texas, whose archdiocese includes Dilley, was joined by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, and Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo, Texas. Bishops Michael Rinehart and H. Julian Gordy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also joined them on the visit. Since last summer, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has detained hundreds of families at detention centers in New Mexico, Texas, and Pennsylvania, under a new family detention policy aimed at families fleeing violence in Central America.
“After this visit, my primary question is: Why? Why do we feel compelled to place in detention such vulnerable individuals –traumatized young mothers with children fleeing persecution in their home countries?” said Archbishop García-Siller following the visit. “A great nation such as ours need not incarcerate the most vulnerable in the name of deterrence. The moral character of a society is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable in our midst. Our nation’s family detention policy is shameful and I implore our elected officials to end it."
Bishop Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, added: “The detention of families serves no purpose and undermines due process. It especially harms children, who experience emotional and psychological harm from detention. The policy is a stain on the administration’s record on immigration.”
Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo, Texas, said humane alternatives to detention exist and should be used for the population.
“The government should consider placing these families in humane alternatives to detention, where they could live in the community and access needed services, including legal representation,” Bishop Tamayo said. “The Church is ready to assist in this effort.”
Information on the USCCB position on family detention can be found at www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/position-papers/upload/Family-Detention-Paper_Final_-3-19-15-2.pdf

March 20, 2015

WASHINGTON — By its recent approval of the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (RHNDA) and the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA), the Council of the District of Columbia ran afoul of federal law and constitutional principles, says a letter sent to Congress by six members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on March 20. The bishops are asking Congress to rescind these two pieces of legislation.
A copy of the letter may be found online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/ADW-USCCB-letter-DC-bills-3-20-15.pdf
“At issue is whether faith-based organizations should be forced to support activity they deem morally objectionable, such as funding elective abortions through their employee health plans, and whether religiously affiliated schools should be forced to endorse behavior contrary to their faith and moral convictions,” said Hillary Byrnes, USCCB assistant general counsel. “The council’s actions also raise the question whether an employer should be forced to hire an employee who has publicly denounced its mission. Equal protection does not mean compelling individuals or organizations to promote activity contrary to their beliefs.”
Signers of the letter are Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston (chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities), Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska (chair of the Committee on Catholic Education), Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, New York (chair of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth), Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco (chair of the Subcommittee on Promotion and Defense of Marriage) and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore (chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty).

April 20, 2015
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis named Father Mario E. Dorsonville-Rodríguez, 54, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington. Bishop-elect Dorsonville-Rodríguez serves as vice president for mission of Catholic Charities and director of the Spanish Catholic Center of the Archdiocese of Washington.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, March 20, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Mario Eduardo Dorsonville-Rodríguez was born October 31, 1960 in Bogotá, Colombia, the only child of Leonor Rodríguez Hogar and the late Carlos Dorsonville Zarate. He attended the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogotá, receiving a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1981 and a bachelor’s in sacred theology in 1985. He was ordained to the priesthood on November 23, 1985 in Bogotá. Following ordination, he served as parochial vicar of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Bogotá (1986), chaplain of the National University of Colombia, Bogotá (1987), pastor of San Jose de Calasanz Parish, Bogotá (1987-1991), and associate chaplain (1988-1991) and professor of ethics (1990-1991) at the National University of Colombia.
He received a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá in 1991 and a doctorate in ministry from The Catholic University of America in 1995. From 1992-1994, he served as parochial vicar of Good Shepherd and Christ the Redeemer Parishes in Arlington, Virginia, and as a lecturer at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington. He served as a professor at the Hispanic Apostolate of Arlington from 1993-1994. He returned to Colombia to serve as chaplain and professor of ethics to the National University of Colombia and professor of pastoral counseling and catechesis at the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogotá from 1995-1996.
He served parochial vicar of St. Joseph Parish in Arlington (1996), Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bethesda, Maryland (1997-2004) and St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Hyattsville, Maryland (2004-2005). He has served as vice president for mission of Catholic Charities of Washington and director of the Spanish Catholic Center since 2005 and as adjunct spiritual director for St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington since 2011.
He has served as a member of the priest council of the Archdiocese of Washington since 2000 and a member of the College of Consultors of the archdiocese since 2011. He was a member of the board of directors for Carroll Publishing Company from 2000-2003. He completed an executive certificate in non-profit management course at Georgetown University in 2009 and served as a mentor for newly ordained priests from 2010-2011.
The Archdiocese of Washington is comprised of 2,104 square miles encompassing the District of Columbia and parts of the state of Maryland and has a total population of 2,867,377 people, of whom 630,823, or 22 percent, are Catholic. The archdiocese currently has two active auxiliary bishops, Bishop Martin D. Holley and Bishop Barry C. Knestout, and one retired auxiliary bishop, Bishop Francisco Gonzáles Valer. S.F., who retired in 2014.

March 19, 2015

WASHINGTON — As it makes budget appropriations decisions, Congress should protect funding to housing and agriculture programs that serve poor and vulnerable people, said leaders of national Catholic social service providers, as well as the bishops who chair the U.S. bishops’ committees on domestic and international justice issues, in separate letters, March 19.
In letters to the leaders of the House and Senate Subcommittees on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president-elect of Catholic Charities USA, urged greater resources for programs that assist the elderly, people with disabilities, veterans and others afford housing.
“As Catholics, we believe that housing is a human right, and that society has a shared obligation to ensure that individuals and families have access to safe and affordable housing,” Archbishop Wenski and Sister Markham wrote.
The full letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/housing-homelessness/letters-to-appropriations-subcommittees-from-usccb-ccusa-fy-2016-thud-approps-2015-03-19.cfm
In letters to the leaders of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, Archbishop Wenski, Sister Markham, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Carolyn Y. Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, defended funding to programs including international food assistance and nutrition programs to women, infants and children.
“We urge you to protect and fund programs that feed hungry people, help the most vulnerable farmers, strengthen rural communities and promote good stewardship of God’s creation,” they wrote.
The full letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/agriculture-nutrition-rural-issues/letter-to-appropriations-committees-from-usccb-ccusa-crs-fy-2016-agriculture-approps-2015-03-19.cfm

March 19, 2015

WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Canadian governments must hold mining companies from their countries that operate in Latin America to laws and standards that protect indigenous communities and vulnerable groups, as well as local economies and the environment, said representatives of the bishops of Latin America in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), March 19. The hearing was held in response to a petition filed by the Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano (CELAM) and other member institutions of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, which represents bishops’ conferences, religious men and women and Catholic relief agencies throughout Latin America.
Archbishop Pedro Barreto of Peru and Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini of Guatemala represented CELAM, along with Father Peter Hughes and Enrique Pinilla of its Department of Justice and Solidarity. Bishop Donald Bolen, who heads the Peace and Justice Commission at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), as well as Archbishop Timothy Broglio, archbishop for the Military Services, were present at the hearing to express support.
A petition provided an overview of the issues pertaining to extractives in a number of Latin American countries, outlining calamitous public health and environmental consequences of mining operations by U.S. and Canadian multinationals. The testimony at the hearing focused on six countries, Brazil ,Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico, and focused on key themes including violence and criminalization of human rights defenders and the need for a new model of sustainable development. Written statements of support from CCCB and USCCB were also presented at the hearing. The USCCB, through the work of its Committee on International Justice and Peace, has long been concerned about the implications of extractives and mining operations throughout the world, especially in Latin America.
The U.S. government, joined by Canada, “must do more to support the claims and interests of these affected communities. It must require that U.S. enterprises operating in these regions abide by the same standards of care for human life and ecology as apply to their operations in the United States,” said Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chair of the USCCB International Justice and Peace Committee, in his letter of support.
The full text of Bishop Cantú’s letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/latin-america-caribbean/letter-of-solidarity-to-celam-from-bishop-cantu-re-iachr-hearing-on-extractives-2015-03-17.cfm

Others participating in the hearing were Bishop Roque Paloschi of the Amazonian Commission of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference, as well as David Lovatón, Legal Advisor, and Mauricio López , Executive Secretary of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network. (http://redamazonica.org/)

March 12, 2015
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Bishop Thomas A. Daly, 54, as bishop of Spokane, Washington, and Conventual Franciscan Father John Stowe, 48, as bishop of Lexington, Kentucky. Bishop Daly has served as auxiliary bishop of San Jose, California, since 2011. Bishop-elect Stowe is vicar provincial of the Conventual Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Consolation, Mount St. Francis, Indiana, and rector of the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio.
The appointments were publicized in Washington, March 12, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Thomas A. Daly was born April 30, 1960, in San Francisco. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of San Francisco in 1982; a master of divinity from St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, in 1987; and a master of education degree from Boston College in 1996. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1987. After ordination, he served as parochial vicar of Our Lady of Loretto Parish, 1987-1992; teacher and campus minister, Marin High School, 1992-2003; part-time chaplain, San Francisco Police Department, 1995-2003; and parochial vicar, St. Cecilia’s Church, 1995-1999.
He became vocations director for the archdiocese in 2002 and president of Marin Catholic High School in 2003, serving in both capacities until Pope Benedict XVI named him auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of San Jose on March 16, 2011. He was ordained a bishop May 25 of that year. In Spokane, he succeeds Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, who was appointed archbishop of Chicago, September 20, 2014.
The Diocese of Spokane comprises 24,356 square miles in eastern Washington state and has a total population of 830,641 people, of whom 107,983, or 13 percent, are Catholic.
John Stowe was born April 15, 1966, in Amherst, Ohio. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Louis University in 1990; a master of divinity from Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, in 1993 and a licentiate in sacred theology from Jesuit School of Theology in 1995. He made his solemn profession to the Conventual Franciscans, Our Lady of Consolation Province, August 1, 1992, and was ordained September 16, 1995.
Following ordination, he served as associate pastor (1995-1997), administrator (1997-2000) and pastor (2000-2003) of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in El Paso, Texas. He served as vicar general (2003-2010) and chancellor (2008-2010) of the Diocese of El Paso, while also serving as administrator of Our Lady of the Valley Parish (2006-2010). He was elected vicar provincial and has served as rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation since 2010. In Lexington, he succeeds Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, who was appointed bishop of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 24, 2014.
The Diocese of Lexington comprises 16,423 square miles in eastern Kentucky and has a total population of 1,588,319 people, of whom 41,914, or three percent, are Catholic.

March 10, 2015
WASHINGTON — People of all faiths are called to pray for victims of religious persecution and violence and work to protect the marginalized and persecuted around the world, according to a statement of the Administrative Committee of the U.S. bishops, approved March 10. The bishops said Lent is a time for prayerfully reflecting on suffering.
“Let us use this season to unite with our suffering brothers and sisters and pray for them and with them in a special way,” they said. “With hope, let us pray for the day when we can all share in the joy and lasting peace of Christ’s resurrection.”
The Administrative Committee is chaired by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The committee consists of the elected chairs of the 16 standing committees, the elected representatives of 15 geographic regions, the chairman of Catholic Relief Services and the elected officers of USCCB.
Full text of the statement follows:
March 10, 2015
Upon learning of the death of 21 Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIL terrorists, Pope Francis called their murder a “testimony which cries out to be heard.” On behalf of America’s Catholic Bishops, we pause to listen and invite people of all faiths to join us in prayer for those facing the stark reality of religious persecution in the Middle East and elsewhere. The testimony of those 21 brave and courageous martyrs does not stand alone as thousands of families – Christian and other religions – find themselves fleeing from horrific violence.
We urge all people of goodwill to work toward protections of the marginalized and persecuted.  In union with the local Churches and the Holy See, we call upon our nation to: work with the international community to intervene and protect the rights of religious minorities and civilians within the framework of international and humanitarian law; address political and economic exclusion that are exploited by extremists; and increase humanitarian and development assistance.
Lent is a season to meditate upon the Cross and unite ourselves even more closely with Christ’s suffering. Let us use this season to unite with our suffering brothers and sisters and pray for them and with them in a special way. With hope, let us pray for the day when we can all share in the joy and lasting peace of Christ’s resurrection.

March 9, 2015
WASHINGTON — Three chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gave strong support for the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2015. The Act would forbid the federal government, and any state receiving federal funds for child welfare services, from taking adverse action against a provider that, for religious or moral reasons, declines to provide a child welfare social service.
“Our first and most cherished freedom, religious liberty, is to be enjoyed by all Americans, including child welfare providers who serve the needs of children – the most vulnerable members of society,” wrote Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; in letters of support to Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) in the U.S. House of Representatives and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in the U.S. Senate, who introduced the bill.
Highlighting the inclusivity of the legislation, the chairmen noted, “Rightly, the Inclusion Act protects the religious liberties and moral convictions of all child welfare providers. No providers are excluded by the Act.”
Some religious child welfare providers, including in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia, have been excluded from carrying out adoption and foster care services because the providers act on their belief that children deserve to be placed with a married mother and father. The chairmen said, “The Inclusion Act would remedy this unjust discrimination by enabling all providers to serve the needs of parents and children in a manner consistent with the providers’ religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
Stressing that the Inclusion Act respects the importance of parental choice, the chairmen remarked, “Indeed, women and men who want to place their children for adoption ought to be able to choose from a diversity of adoption agencies, including those that share the parents’ religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
The letters of support are available online at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Ltr-to-Rep-Kelly-Inclusion-Act-2015.pdf, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Ltr-to-Sen-Enzi-Inclusion-Act-2015.pdf
A backgrounder on the Inclusion Act is available at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Backgrounder-Inclusion-Act-2015.pdf

March 6, 2015
WASHINGTON — The Syrian refugee crisis ­–now totaling nearly 4 million refugees– has reached a “tipping point,” in which countries in the region are no longer able to handle the flow of refugees across their borders, warned U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) officials who recently traveled to the Middle East.
“Without more international support, we will find Syrians fleeing extremists being turned away and forced back to danger,” said Anastasia Brown, interim executive director for USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services (MRS). “The global community, led by Europe and the United States, needs to increase its support in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
A delegation of USCCB officials which visited the region in late 2014, released their report March 6. Entitled “Refuge and Hope in the Time of ISIS: The Urgent need for Protection, Humanitarian Support, and Durable Solutions in Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece,” the report looks at the plight of Syrians in the three countries, a growing trek for Syrians attempting to reach Europe.
The report highlights the gaps Syrians face as they attempt to find protection, with many traveling through Greece and Bulgaria on their way to Europe. According to the United Nations, many more are taking dangerous sea journeys in boats to reach the continent.
At the same time, countries bordering Syria and Iraq are showing signs of strain and imposing new policies at their borders. In recent months, Jordan has exerted more control over its northern border, denying entry to some refugees from ISIS-controlled areas, while Lebanon has instituted a visa policy for Syrians seeking to enter their country. While Turkey has kept its border open, refugee interviews are being scheduled for 2022.
“It was apparent from our trip that the protection space in the region for Syrians is shrinking,” said Matt Wilch, refugee policy advisor for MRS/USCCB. “People are becoming more desperate and are attempting dangerous journeys to Europe and beyond.”
Of special note is the impact the crisis is having on children, who number as many as 2 million—half the total of Syrian refugees. Among those are unaccompanied children who, according to the delegation, have a special claim on protection.
“The number of unaccompanied children and other vulnerable children from Syria and elsewhere is rising, yet there are few protection mechanisms in place to identify and rescue them from harm,” said Nathalie Lummert, director of Special Programs for MRS/USCCB. “What we are seeing is an exodus of the next generation in Syria, with little hope for their future.”
The delegation also expressed grave concern for the plight of religious minorities, who are targets of extremists in the region. Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, along with Yazidis, are at risk of their lives.
 “Without a dramatic response to this unprecedented humanitarian challenge, we will continue to see ongoing suffering and even death in this population, especially among the most vulnerable,” Brown said.
The delegation’s report lists several recommendations to address the crisis, including increased refugee assistance and resettlement. The full report is available at www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/upload/Refuge-and-Hope-in-the-Time-of-ISIS.pdf

March 6, 2015
WASHINGTON — The Catholic Relief Services Collection, scheduled to take place March 14-15 in many dioceses across the United States, aids more than 100 million people around the world including those affected by persecution, war and natural disasters, through the six worldwide agencies it supports. The collection’s theme “Help Jesus in Disguise,” provides an opportunity to echo the gospel call to assist and accompany the poor.
“The Catholic Relief Services Collection gives us a Lenten opportunity for global solidarity. We show our love of God and each other through caring for the poor and marginalized. This collection provides much-needed humanitarian aid, supports development projects that improve living conditions, and provides resources for immigrant and immigrant communities and advocacy programs,” said Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, chairman of the Committee on National Collections of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “This collection helps to alleviate suffering in incredibly meaningful ways.”
Funds from last year’s collection helped Catholic Relief Services (CRS) provide housing and protection for people whose lives have been disrupted by violence in Gaza, Jerusalem and the Kurdish region of Iraq. CRS has also introduced peacebuilding programs in South Sudan, and continues assisting in rebuilding efforts in communities struck by natural disasters in Haiti and the Philippines. CRS is a leading provider of services and expertise in agriculture, global health and emergency response and recovery.
In addition, USCCB’s Office of International Justice and Peace (IJP) and Catholic Relief Services worked with the Church in the Central African Republic to raise awareness and advocate for those afflicted by violence and conflict. As a result of their intervention, the United States committed $101 million for Africa Union Peacekeepers and $30 million for humanitarian assistance. The number of African Union Peacekeepers was increased from 1,200 to almost 6,000. Through projects like these, IJP and CRS help the Church to stop violence and seek assistance for those in need.
The Catholic Relief Services Collection funds six Catholic agencies: Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official overseas relief and development agency of the U.S. bishops; USCCB’s Department of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), which helps resettle refugees in the United States; USCCB’s Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, which provides outreach and pastoral care for ethnic and cultural groups; USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development, which advocates for poor and vulnerable people and works for international justice and peace; Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), which provides legal services for immigrants; and the Holy Father’s Relief Fund, which provides assistance to suffering people around the world.
More information on the Catholic Relief Services Collection and the projects it funds can be found at www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/catholic-relief-services-collection/

March 3, 2015

WASHINGTON — Decisions around the 2016 budget resolution should be measured against whether they protect human life and dignity, the poor and vulnerable and the common good, particularly workers and their families, said two U.S. bishops in a letter, February 27, to every member of Congress.
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, wrote, “The moral measure of the federal budget is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless, or poor are treated. Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources.”
Archbishop Wenski and Bishop Cantú chair the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Committee on International Justice and Peace, respectively.
The bishops expressed support for reduction of future unsustainable deficits and their impact on the economy, but said a just framework for a federal budget cannot rely on “disproportionate cuts in essential service to poor persons.” The bishops noted how Budget Control Act caps and sequestration have limited many domestic and international poverty-focused programs and cautioned lawmakers against using the reconciliation process to achieve savings by cutting health care, nutrition and other programs.
“As pastors, we see every day the human consequences of budget choices. Our Catholic community defends the unborn, feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, educates the young, and cares for the sick, both at home and abroad. We help poor families rise above crushing poverty, resettle refugees fleeing conflict and persecution, and reach out to communities devastated by wars, natural disasters and famines. In much of this work, we are partners with government, and our combined resources allow us to reach further and help more,” the bishops wrote.
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/letter-to-congress-from-archbishop-wenski-bishop-cantu-on-federal-budget-fy-2016-02-27-2015.cfm

March 3, 2015

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Robert W. McElroy, 61, bishop of the Diocese of San Diego. Bishop McElroy has served as an auxiliary bishop of San Francisco since 2010. He succeeds the late Bishop Cirilo Flores, who died September 6, 2014.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, March 3, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Robert Walter McElroy was born February 5, 1954. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1975, a master’s degree in American history from Stanford University in 1976, and a master of divinity degree from St. Patrick Seminary, Menlo Park, California, in 1979. He was ordained a priest for the San Francisco Archdiocese April 12, 1980, and named a monsignor in 1996.
Following ordination, he was parochial vicar of St. Cecilia Church in San Francisco, 1980-1982; and secretary to Archbishop John R. Quinn, 1982-1985. He studied for a licentiate in sacred theology at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, California, in 1985; and for a doctorate in sacred theology at the Gregorian University, Rome, 1985-1986. He studied for a doctorate in history at Stanford from 1986-1989.
From 1989-1995, he was parochial vicar at St. Pius Church, and was vicar general for the San Francisco Archdiocese, 1995-1997. From 1997-2010, he was pastor of St. Gregory Parish in San Mateo, California. He was appointed a bishop by Pope Benedict XVI on July 6, 2010, and consecrated on September 7 of that year.
He is author of “The Search for an American Public Theology: The Contribution of John Courtney Murray,” Paulist Press, 1989; and “Morality and American Foreign Policy: The Role of Ethics in International Affairs,” Princeton University Press, 1992. He also has been published in journals and America magazine.
The Diocese of San Diego covers 8,852 square miles in Southern California and has a total population of 3,236,492 people, of whom 998,127, or 31 percent, are Catholic.

February 26, 2015
WASHINGTON —The vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) preserving an open Internet and preventing service providers from discriminating against content makers is a welcome move, crucial for allowing religions, including the Catholic Church, to communicate online, said Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, February 26.
“The Internet is a critical medium for religious speech. Radio, broadcast television and cable television are, in large part, closed to noncommercial religious messages,” said Bishop Wester, who chairs the Communications Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “From the inception of the Internet until the mid-2000s, Internet service providers were not permitted to discriminate or tamper with what was said over those Internet connections. Today, the FCC restores this protection for speakers, protection particularly important to noncommercial religious speakers.”
The USCCB has long supported open Internet, where neither the telephone or cable company providing access can tamper with access by consumers to any legal website or other web content.

February 24, 2015

WASHINGTON — In the wake of the brutal murders of twenty one Coptic Christians at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya, increased support to protect religious minorities and civilians should be combined with adequate humanitarian assistance and other assets, said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.
“Pope Francis and the Holy See have reiterated on a number of occasions that it is ‘licit’ to use force to stop these unjust aggressors and to protect religious minorities and civilians from these horrendous attacks,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president, and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, in a February 23 letter sent to President Obama and the U.S. House and Senate leadership. “They have emphasized that the use of military force must be proportionate and discriminate, and employed within the framework of ‘international and humanitarian law.’”
As Congress considers the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the bishops urged them to review it within the context of humanitarian law. “The United States should only use military force consistent with ‘international and humanitarian law.’ At the same time, we must deploy other assets in the struggle against terrorism.”
Quoting the post-9/11 statement of the U.S. bishops, they reiterated:  “While military action may be necessary, it is by no means sufficient to deal with this terrorist threat.”  The bishops noted:  “Inclusive governance and meaningful participation in political and economic life inoculate populations against the false promises of extremism.”
The letter also addressed the need for humanitarian and resettlement assistance. Bishop Cantú witnessed the situation first hand during a recent solidarity visit to the Kurdish region of Iraq where the terror of the “Islamic State” has forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis –including Christians, Yezidis and Muslims– to flee their homes. “They arrive often with only the clothes on their backs. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is working with the local Church to assist the displaced without regard to creed, but the needs are overwhelming. More than one Catholic bishop begged us to urge our government to provide both protection and more humanitarian assistance,” the bishops wrote.
“Our delegation to Iraq also met with some very vulnerable refugees and displaced Syrians and Iraqis who will not be able to return to their homes. Some have health conditions, others have lost a bread winner, and still others are orphaned,” the bishops wrote on the magnitude of the crisis. “The most vulnerable of this population need to have the option of resettlement to a third country. The United States should accept its share of these vulnerable cases.”
The full text of the letter is available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/letters-president-obama-congressional-leaders-on-religious-freedom-violations-middle-east-2015-02-23.cfm.

February 23, 2015

WASHINGTON — An interim final rule published by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services risks harmful effects on unaccompanied children resettled by the United States, according to comments filed by Catholic and Evangelical organizations and relief agencies. At issue is whether the rule adequately accounts for the religious and moral concerns of faith-based organizations. Regulations that may force those agencies to restrict their work could create an unmanageable backlog for services. 
“We believe that, through practical discussions, we can find a resolution that allows the government to fulfill its obligation to care for unaccompanied children, while also respecting the religious and moral beliefs of faith-based organization that, to date, have provided such critical care for this vulnerable population,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said in joint comments filed on February 20 along with the National Association of Evangelicals, World Vision, Inc., Catholic Relief Services and World Relief.
The organizations stressed their commitment to support and strengthen protections for these minors in ways that respect the organizations’ religious and moral convictions. “In cases where pregnancy occurs, those of us participating in the program are willing to continue to provide health care access, as we have for years, in a manner consistent with our religious beliefs,” the comments noted.
The comments stated that the rule falls short of having adequate protections for those organizations with religious or moral objections to certain requirements under the rule, including providing minors and victims of sexual abuse access to “emergency contraception” and access “to all lawful pregnancy-related medical services,” which the comments indicated “apparently includes abortion.”
The comments also noted that the rule has implications regarding human sexuality and therefore requests that ORR ensure that organizations remain free to act in accord with their religious beliefs and moral convictions in the area of human sexuality when providing care for unaccompanied minors.
The comments responded to an interim final rule that was published in the Federal Register on December 24, 2014.
Currently, six out of nine national refugee resettlement agencies in the United States are faith-based organizations, including the USCCB, which is the largest in terms of persons served, and World Relief, which mobilizes the resources of the evangelical community. Together, these organizations resettle the majority of refugees entering the United States each year.
The full text of the comments is available online:  www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/rulemaking/upload/02-20-15-comments-UM.pdf.

February 22, 2015
WASHINGTON — Congress should reaffirm the principle that government “should not force anyone to stop offering or covering much-needed legitimate health care” because of a conscientious objection to abortion or other procedures, said Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore. In a February 13 letter to the House of Representatives, the bishops, who chair the Committee on Pro-Life Activities and the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), urged legislators to support and co-sponsor the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940).
“It is increasingly obvious that Congress needs to act to protect conscientious objection to the taking of innocent human life,” wrote Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori. “Recently California’s Department of Managed Health Care began demanding that all health plans under its jurisdiction include elective abortions, including late-term abortions. This mandate has no exemption for religious or moral objections, and is being enforced against religious universities, schools and even churches. Similar proposals have emerged in Washington and other states.”
The bishops noted that the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) section of the bill would give firmer legal basis to the Weldon amendment, part of every Labor/HHS appropriations bill since 2004, which forbids governmental bodies receiving federal funds to discriminate against those who decline to take part in abortion or abortion coverage. They noted that President Obama has expressed support for the Weldon amendment.
In addition, the bishops said that H.R. 940 would incorporate respect for rights of conscience into the Affordable Care Act, allowing those who purchase, provide and sponsor health coverage under the Act to opt out of abortion or other specific items that violate their moral and religious convictions. Finally the bill would recognize a private right of action for victims of discrimination under either provision, so they can go to court to defend their rights.
“We strongly urge you to support and co-sponsor the Health Care Conscience Rights Act,” the bishops concluded.
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Cardinal-O-Malley-Archbishop-Lori-Urge-Congress-to-Support-HR-940-Health-Care-Conscience-Rights-Act.pdf

February 12, 2015

WASHINGTON—Congress should urge the government of Israel to halt unnecessary confiscation of Palestinian lands in the Occupied West Bank, a move that would help address the plight of Christian Palestinians in the Cremisan Valley and “renew hope for a just resolution to the conflict,” said the chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
In a February 11 letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, urged the committees to intervene with the Israeli government regarding a plan to reroute the separation barrier through the Cremisan Valley in the West Bank. The plan, he said, ignores the rights and needs of the local community and would have “devastating consequences.”
“The proposed routes of the separation barrier would effectively confiscate the Palestinian agricultural and recreational lands of over 50 Christian families. This threatens the livelihoods of the remaining Christian community of Bethlehem, pressuring even more to leave the Holy Land,” wrote Bishop Cantú, who traveled to the Holy Land in January to meet with community and Church leaders and see the situation first hand.
“The barrier would also negatively impact the work of the Catholic Church in the Valley by separating a Salesian monastery from a nearby convent, isolating both their ministries from critical resources and contacts with the local population. In one case, the proposed route would surround a Salesian school for 450 students on three sides with a militarized barrier,” wrote Bishop Cantú.
Bishop Cantú noted that the Cremisan Valley is a microcosm of the patterns that jeopardize the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and threaten the lives of Israelis and Palestinians. He reiterated the U.S. bishops’ longstanding support for a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/israel-palestine/letter-to-congressional-leaders-from-bishop-cantu-on-cremsan-valley-2015-02-11.cfm

February 11, 2015

WASHINGTON — Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, gave strong support for the State Marriage Defense Act of 2015 (H.R. 824, S. 435) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Randy Weber (R-TX) and in the U.S. Senate by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).
In letters of support dated February 11 to Representative Weber and Senator Cruz, Archbishop Cordileone noted that agencies within the Executive Branch of the federal government have begun using a rule that, contrary to the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision, allows a federal overruling of state marriage law. “By employing a ‘place of celebration’ rule, these agencies have chosen to ignore the law of the state in which people reside in determining whether they are married. The effect, if not the intent, of this choice is to circumvent state laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” said Archbishop Cordileone.
The Archbishop further indicated how it is that these federal agencies are acting contrary to Supreme Court precedent. “The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, however, requires the federal government to defer to state marriage law, not disregard it.” He concluded that the State Marriage Defense Act of 2015 is necessary because it “would remedy this problem by requiring the federal government, consistent with Windsor, to defer to the marriage law of the state in which people actually reside when determining whether they are married for purposes of federal law.”
Archbishop Cordileone urged other members of Congress to join in supporting this legislation, saying, “Marriage needs to be preserved and strengthened, not redefined.  Every just effort to stand for the unique meaning of marriage is worthy of support.”
The letter of support to Representative Weber is available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=168181
The letter of support to Senator Cruz is available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=168178

February 11, 2015

WASHINGTON — Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, testified on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, February 11, in opposition to three enforcement-only bills. Collectively, the bills would harm immigrant and refugee children; criminalize undocumented persons and those who provide them with basic needs assistance, including religious and church workers; and permit states and localities to create and enforce their own immigration laws.
In his statement before the subcommittee, Bishop Kicanas said the three bills “would take our nation in the wrong direction,” and fail to fix our nation’s immigration system. Instead, he urged the subcommittee to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation, including a path to citizenship for the undocumented.
“Mr. Chairman, we believe these bills would not fix our immigration system,” Bishop Kicanas said. “Rather, they would make it less just and would undermine our nation’s moral authority, both domestically and globally.”
Bishop Kicanas pointed to the numerous provisions in the three bills which would harm immigrant and refugee children, including repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, affecting 600,000 children, and the repeal of protections for unaccompanied alien children fleeing violence in Central America, subjecting them to return to possible harm without the benefit of an immigration hearing.
“Our country is judged by how we treat the most vulnerable and the removal of protections from children ­–both in the DACA program and those seeking refuge– flies against human decency and violates human dignity. We should not punish these children, who themselves are innocent and are only seeking opportunity and safety.”
Finally, Bishop Kicanas pointed to provisions in the Secure and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act which would criminalize undocumented persons and those who transport them, including religious and lay faith-based workers, to a hospital, soup kitchen, or Mass.
Citing similar provisions in a 2006 bill which sparked protests across the country, Bishop Kicanas asked: “As a nation, do we want to go down this road again?  Do we want to criminalize millions of persons who have built equities in this country, jail them, and separate them from their families?  Instead of fixing a broken system, would we want to jail nuns and other good samaritans who are simply aiding their fellow human beings, consistent with their faith?”
“Mr. Chairman,” Bishop Kicanas concluded, “the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the people of many faith communities, and the majority of Americans were disappointed that comprehensive immigration reform legislation was not passed in the 113th Congress. You once again have the opportunity to fix the broken system in the 114th Congress. We stand ready to work with you toward this goal.”
Bishop Kicanas’ full written statement is available at www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/congressional-testimony/upload/Kicanasfinal.pdf

February 10, 2015

WASHINGTON — James L. Rogers has been named executive director of Public Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
In this newly created role, Rogers will oversee the USCCB Office of Media Relations and will be responsible for the development and implementation of the USCCB’s external communications messaging, strategy and objectives. He begins his position on February 18.
Rogers has spent 20 years managing communications for organizations with a high profile in Washington, most recently as executive director of public relations at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. From 2011 to 2014 he was executive director of public relations for Kaiser Permanente where he established a national public relations office in Washington for the $50 billion healthcare system. From 2005 to 2011, he held the positon of secretary for communications with the Jesuit Conference. There he served as senior advisor to the national president and launched a social media program and brand journalism site (Jesuit.org) that won three awards from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.
He has also managed media relations at the National Rehabilitation Hospital and led advertising and cause-related marketing at the American Cancer Society. He staged a Great American Smokeout Workout with the White House, wrote Congressional testimony in support of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and planned site visits for the British No. 10 Policy Unit and the German Federal Ministry of Health.
Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, USCCB general secretary, made the appointment.
“James Rogers brings a wealth of professional experience in public relations and communications management to the Conference,” he said. “I am confident that his many gifts, coupled with his devotion to the Church, will be of valuable service to the bishops.”
Rogers earned a bachelor of arts degree from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. He is a member of the National Press Club, the Public Relations Society of America and an Arthur W. Page Society Future Leader.
Rogers resides in Purcellville, Virginia with his wife and son. They are parishioners of St. Francis de Sales. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus EDW Council in Arlington, where he also served as division president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

February 6, 2015

WASHINGTON — Two recently enacted laws in the District of Columbia are “unprecedented assaults upon our organizations” and “violate the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association protected by the First Amendment and other federal law,” said representatives of a number of national and local organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in a February 5 letter to Congress.
The letter urged Congress to protect religious freedom and freedom of conscience by disapproving the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 and the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014 during the congressional review period for these laws.
The letter was signed by Anthony Picarello, USCCB General Counsel and Associate General Secretary, as well as legal and other representatives for organizations including the Archdiocese of Washington, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, the Catholic University of America, Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Association of Evangelicals, and others.
The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 prevents religious institutions, faith-based employers, and pro-life advocacy organizations in the city from making employment decisions consistent with their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about the sanctity of human life.
For example, the law requires “organizations to hire or retain individuals whose speech or public conduct contradicts the organizations’ missions,” the letter stated. “The law plainly violates the First Amendment, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), and possibly other federal laws and clearly contradicts the Supreme Court’s recent, unanimous ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Church and School v. EEOC.”
Another law enacted by the Council of the District of Columbia, the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014, requires religiously affiliated educational institutions to endorse, sponsor, and provide school resources to persons or groups that oppose the institutions’ religious teachings regarding human sexuality.
“In doing so, the law violates the First Amendment and RFRA on similar grounds,” the letter stated. “While we will continue to serve the city and the nation, we cannot surrender the constitutional freedoms that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution rightly reserved to all of us.”


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