Browsing News Entries

Saskatchewan suit says indigenous women were forced into sterilization

Regina, Canada, Nov 14, 2018 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a class-action lawsuit in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, more than 60 indigenous women allege they were coerced into being sterilized. The incidents happened as recently as 2017.

In July 2017, a representative of the Saskatoon Health Region apologized for the forced sterilizations, saying, “I am truly sorry for the coercion for tubal ligation that you experienced while in our care.”

Alisa Lombard, a lawyer representing the indigenous women, told the CBC that “in the throes of labour ... they would be approached, harassed, coerced into signing these consent forms.” They would be told they could not leave, or see their child, until they had been sterilized.

An Ontario senator has called for a nationwide inquiry into force sterilization of indigenous peoples, as there have been reports of the practice from multiple provinces and territories.

Advocates have urged that forced sterilization be criminalized, and that Health Canada give guidance to doctors on sterilization procedures.

Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services, said that “the issue of forced sterilization of vulnerable people, including Indigenous women, is a very serious violation of human rights.”

Florist case reopens before Washington Supreme Court

Olympia, Wash., Nov 14, 2018 / 10:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Attorneys representing florist Barronelle Stutzman filed their opening brief with the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday, as the court re-hears the case after its previous ruling was reversed.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a previous Washington state ruling against Stutzman, who in 2013 declined to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the Washington Supreme Court, instructing that the case be reconsidered in the light of Masterpiece Cakeshop.

In that decision, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Christian cake baker Jack Phillips, who had declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown an impermissible hostility toward religion in their handling of the case.

Stutzman’s attorneys have argued that a similar hostility against religion was on display in the handling of Stuzman’s case by Washington’s attorney general.

“While the attorney general failed to prosecute a business that obscenely berated and discriminated against Christian customers, he has steadfastly—and on his own initiative—pursued unprecedented measures to punish Barronelle not just in her capacity as a business owner but also in her personal capacity,” said Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom, the group defending both Phillips and Stutzman.

“In its Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, the Supreme Court condemned that sort of one-sided, discriminatory application of the law against people of faith,” Waggoner said.

“Also, in the legal briefs that the attorney general has filed in Barronelle’s case, he has repeatedly and overtly demeaned her faith. He has compared her religious beliefs about marriage—which the Supreme Court said are ‘decent and honorable’—to racial discrimination,” Waggoner continued.

“This conflicts with the Supreme Court’s recognition in Masterpiece Cakeshop that it was ‘inappropriate’ for the government to draw parallels between those religious beliefs and ‘defenses of slavery’.”

The Washington case centers around 73-year-old Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington.

In 2013, Rob Ingersoll, a long-time friend and customer of Stutzman, asked her to arrange flowers for his same-sex wedding ceremony.

Stutzman knew that Ingersoll was gay, and had always been happy to create flower arrangements for birthdays and other special occasions.

However, because she believes marriage to be a sign of the relationship between Christ and his Church, she told Ingersoll that she could not make a flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding.

Ingersoll initially said that he understood and asked her to recommend another florist. Later, however, his partner posted a message on social media about Stutzman declining to take part in the wedding, and it went viral. Soon afterward, she was informed that she was being sued by the Washington State attorney general and the ACLU.

Stutzman, who is Southern Baptist, has said that she views weddings as more than just a job. She spends months or even years getting to know the bride and groom, to understand their vision and what they want to convey.

Because her wedding arrangements are such a deeply personal labor of love, she said that she felt that she could not in good conscience design flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

In February 2017, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling against Stutzman. She then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case.

While the actual damages being sought by the gay couple are only around $7 – the mileage cost of driving to another florist – Stutzman could be responsible for more than $1 million in legal fees to nearly a dozen ACLU lawyers opposing her in the case. Her home, business, savings, and personal assets are all at risk in the case.

Over the last five years, Stutzman said she has received an outpouring of support and messages of encouragement from nearly 60 countries, but also death threats that have required her to install a security system and change her route to work.

In a statement earlier this year, Stutzman said that she serves all customers, but cannot create products for events that conflict with her deeply-held religious beliefs.

She said the Washington attorney general “has always ignored that part of my case, choosing to vilify me and my faith instead of respecting my religious beliefs about marriage.”

“When the state trial court ruled against me at the attorney general’s request, I wrote the attorney general a letter urging him ‘to drop’ the personal claims that risk stripping away ‘my home, business, and other assets’,” she said.

“He didn’t do that. For him, this case has been about making an example of me—crushing me—all because he disapproves of what I believe about marriage.”

USCCB elects six new committee chairmen

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2018 / 09:42 am (CNA).- On Wednesday morning, the U.S. bishops voted on a slate of positions and committee chairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The votes were originally scheduled to be taken Thursday morning but moved up the schedule following a forecast for adverse weather.

On the ballot were candidates for the chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, as well as the chairmen-elect of five other committees: Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations; Divine Worship; Domestic Justice and Human Development; Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth; and Migration.

The chairman-elect serves for one year shadowing the current chairman before assuming the role for a three-year term of office.

The bishops elected Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland to serve as chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education. Barber has previously served as the Director of the School of Pastoral Leadership in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He will replace Bishop John Quinn. Quinn had been serving as interim-chair of the committee following the departure of Bishop George Murry, who resigned following a diagnosis of leukemia.  

Archbishop Paul Etienne was elected Chairman of the Committee on National Collections.

Bishop James Checcio of Metuchen was elected as the chairman-elect of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations. He takes over from Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark.

The bishops elected Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford to serve as chairman-elect of the Committee on Divine Worship. Blair has served on several conference committees, including those on evangelization and doctrine

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City was elected to lead the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

There was a tie in the election to name a successor to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia as chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Bishop John Doerfler of Marquette each received 125-125 votes.

Archbishop Cordileone was declared the winner by virtue of being the bishop senior in consecration.

Washington, D.C. auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville-Rodriguez was elected to lead the Committee on Migration, currently chaired by Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin. The committee seeks to provide awareness of and responses to the plight of immigrants, human trafficking, and refugees.

The bishops also elected Bishop Gregory Parkes of St. Petersburg, Florida, as treasurer-elect for the USCCB. The office of treasurer manages the conference’s funds and sits as vice-chairman on the Committee on Priorities and Plans. Parkes will take office in November 2019. He worked in the banking industry for several years before entering the seminary and being ordained.

The American bishops also chose two new members for the Board of Directors of Catholic Relief Services: Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services and Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City. Bishop James Johnston was also elected to serve a second term.

Pope Francis: A Christian's life should point to truth

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2018 / 05:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Christians are called to not only refrain from telling falsehoods, but to conduct their entire lives – both words and actions – as a witness to the Truth that is Jesus Christ, Pope Francis said Wednesday.

“Let us ask ourselves: what truth do the works of us Christians attest to, our words, our choices?” the pope said Nov. 14. “Everyone can ask themselves: am I a witness to the truth, or am I more or less a liar disguised as a true person?”

In his weekly catechesis, Pope Francis reflected on the eighth commandment: “you shall not give false witness against thy neighbor.”

“The truth,” he said, “finds its full realization in the very person of Jesus, in his way of living and dying, the fruit of his relationship with the Father.” As children of God, people are given this same access to truth, sent through the Holy Spirit, “who is the Spirit of truth, who attests to our hearts that God is our Father.”

Francis explained that “in every one of his actions man affirms or denies this truth. From small everyday situations to the most demanding choices. But it is the same logic: that which parents and grandparents teach us when they tell us not to lie. The same logic.”

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the pope said, the commandment against lying, “forbids falsifying the truth in relations with others.”

“Inauthentic communication” is a serious error because it prevents relationships and love, which require truth; and “where there is a lie there is no love, there can be no love,” he emphasized.

To tell the truth in one’s relationships means more than to just not tell a falsehood with one’s words, he continued, listing also “gestures, attitudes, silences, and absences,” as possible occasions of dishonesty.

“A person speaks with everything he is and what he does. We are always in communication. We all live by communicating and we are constantly poised between truth and falsehood,” he stated.

An element of telling the truth in relationships includes not gossiping, he said, departing from his prepared remarks to emphasize that to gossip is like dropping a bomb, which destroys the community and the reputation of others.

“Be careful!” he urged. “How much gossip destroys communion for inappropriateness or lack of delicacy!”

Just because one may have told the truth about another person, does not mean it was right to say it, or to reveal some personal or confidential information, Francis warned.

Christians are not exceptional people, but “we are children of the heavenly Father, who is good and does not disappoint,” therefore, Christians are able to live in the truth “not so much said with discourses,” he said, but as a “way of existing, a way of life, and it is seen in every single act.”

“Truth is a marvelous revelation of God, of his Father’s face, is his boundless love,” he said.

The question, “what is truth?” Francis noted, is what Pontius Pilate asked Jesus when he questioned him about his kingship before handing him over to the Jewish people to be crucified.

Jesus said: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” Jesus gives this “testimony” by his passion and death, Pope Francis said. Through his manner of suffering and dying, “Jesus manifests the Father, his merciful and faithful love.”

“Not to say false testimony means to live as a child of God… letting the great truth emerge in every act: that God is Father and we can trust Him. I trust God: this is the great truth,” he concluded.

“From our trust in God, who is a Father and loves me, loves us, my truth is born; and to be truthful and not a liar.”

A look at blasphemy laws around the world

Islamabad, Pakistan, Nov 14, 2018 / 03:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While the world awaits the fate of Asia Bibi, who remains in hiding in Pakistan following the acquittal of her death sentence for blasphemy, religious freedom advocates are calling for an end to blasphemy laws across the globe.

“Blasphemy laws are a way for governments to deny their citizens – and particularly those of minority religions – the basic human rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression,” Dr. Tenzin Dorjee, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said in the statement in October.

However, Dorjee’s statement was not directed at Pakistan -- but Ireland.

Irish citizens voted to remove a provision criminalizing blasphemy from their Constitution on Oct. 26, although the law had not been enforced in recent years.

The Irish Bishops’ Conference said that the blasphemy reference, although “largely obsolete,” could raise concern because of how it could be used “to justify violence and oppression against minorities in other parts of the world.”

More than one-third of the world’s countries maintain laws that criminalize blasphemy -- defined as “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.” Punishments for blasphemy across the 68 countries range widely from fines to imprisonment and death.

In Sudan and Saudi Arabia, corporal punishment, such as whipping, has been used in blasphemy cases. Recently, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1000 public lashes, given in installments of 50 lashes every week, in addition to 10 years in prison separated from his wife and children, and a 10-year travel ban after his prison sentence.

Compulsory and correctional labor are the prescribed punishments in the blasphemy laws in Russia and Kazakhstan.

Iran has the world’s most severe blasphemy laws, followed closely by Pakistan, according to the U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom. Both countries’ laws enforce the death penalty for an insult to the prophet Muhammad. In 2015 alone, Iran executed 20 people for “enmity against God.”

In addition to Iran and Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Qatar, and Egypt have among the world’s worst blasphemy laws, the USCIRF study found in 2017.

Although many of the world’s blasphemy laws are enforced in largely Muslim countries, they exist in every region of the world.

Some Western nations, such as Malta and Denmark, have repealed their national blasphemy laws in recent years, while other countries still enforce them.

In Spain, an actor was prosecuted in September for explicit comments insulting God and the Virgin Mary in Facebook posts that supported the procession of a giant model of female genitalia through the streets of Seville, mocking the Catholic tradition.

Spain’s penal code requires monetary fines for “publicly disparaging dogmas, beliefs, rites or ceremonies” of a religion, and include similar penalties for those who publicly disparage people without a religious faith.

Greek law maintains that “anyone who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes the Greek Orthodox Church or any religion tolerable in Greece shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years.”

The Italian criminal code also includes provisions for “insulting the state religion,” however the government does not generally enforce the law against blasphemy.

In Thailand, the constitution calls for the state to “implement measures to prevent any forms of harm or threat against Buddhism” with potential punishment from two to seven years imprisonment.

In Pakistan, Catholic mother-of-five Asia Bibi was recently acquitted after spending eight years on death row. However, her life is still in danger, as the ruling is under government review as part of a deal to appease groups that were leading riots in the streets. And the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports that at least 40 other people in Pakistan are either on death row or currently serving life sentences for blasphemy.

Nearly half of those facing the death penalty under Pakistan’s blasphemy law have been Christians in a country that is 97 percent Muslim.

“Bibi's case illustrates how blasphemy laws are used to persecute the weakest of the weak among Pakistan's religious minorities,” Religious Freedom Institute fellow Farahnaz Ispahani wrote earlier this year.

“As a poor Christian from a low caste, Bibi was among the most vulnerable and susceptible to discrimination. And the legal system -- which, in theory, should be designed to protect the innocent -- failed her in every way.”

 

U.S. Bishops Approved “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” A Pastoral Letter Against Racism

BALTIMORE— The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved today, during its November General Assembly, the formal statement, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” A Pastoral Letter Against Racism. The full body of bishops approved it by a two-thirds majority vote of 241 to 3 with 1 abstention.

The USCCB Cultural Diversity in the Church Committee, chaired by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS, of San Antonio, Texas, spearheaded the letter’s drafting and guided it through the voting process. Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, of Houma-Thibodaux, Chairman of U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and Chair of the Sub-committee on African American Affairs within the Cultural Diversity Committee, issued the following statement:

“The entire body of bishops felt the need to address the topic of racism, once again, after witnessing the deterioration of the public discourse, and episodes of violence and animosity with racial and xenophobic overtones, that have re-emerged in American society in the last few years. Pastoral letters from the full body of bishops are rare, few and far between. But at key moments in history the bishops have come together for important pronouncements, paying attention to a particular issue and with the intention of offering a Christian response, full of hope, to the problems of our time. This is such a time.”

Initiated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in August 2017, the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism was created to address the sin of racism in our society and Church, to address the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions, and to support the implementation of the bishops’ pastoral letter on racism.

“Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love,” is a Pastoral Letter from the full body of bishops to the lay faithful and all people of goodwill addressing the sin of racism.

The pastoral letter asks us to recall that we are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God. Because we all bear the image of God, racism is above all a moral and theological problem that manifests institutionally and systematically. Only a deep individual conversion of heart, which then multiplies, will compel change and reform in our institutions and society. It is imperative to confront racism’s root causes and the injustice it produces. The love of God binds us together. This same love should overflow into our relationships with all people. The conversions needed to overcome racism require a deep encounter with the living God in the person of Christ who can heal all division.

"Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love," is not the first time the U.S. Bishops have spoken as a collectively on race issues in the United States, but it is the first time in almost 40 years.

In 1979, they approved "Brothers and Sisters to Us: A Pastoral Letter on Racism in Our Day." Among the many things, they discussed was the fact that "Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father." The newly approved “Open Wide Our Hearts” continues the message that “Brothers and Sisters to Us” sought to convey.

The full text, as well as many accompanying pastoral resources, will be posted at http://www.usccb.org/racism. Resources will include a bulletin insert, homily help, prayer materials, background information on systemic racism, and activities for primary, secondary, and higher education classroom settings.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Open Wide Our Hearts, The Enduring Call to Love, pastoral letter, 2018 Fall General Assembly

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

U.S. Bishops Conduct Canonical Consultation on Cause for Canonization of Sr. Thea Bowman, F.S.P.A.

BALTIMORE— At their annual fall Plenary Assembly in Baltimore, MD, the U.S Bishops participated in a consultation on the cause for sainthood of the Servant of God Sr. Thea Bowman, F.S.P.A.

Bishop Robert P. Deeley, Chairman of the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, and Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, Bishop of Jackson, Mississippi, the petitioner of the cause, facilitated the discussion. By a voice vote, the bishops indicated unanimous support for the advancement of the cause on the diocesan level.
 
A self-proclaimed, “old folks’ child,” Bowman, was the only child born to middle-aged parents, Dr. Theon Bowman, a physician and Mary Esther Bowman, a teacher. At birth she was given the name Bertha Elizabeth Bowman. She was born in 1937 and reared in Canton, Mississippi. As a child she converted to Catholicism through the inspiration of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity who were her teachers and pastors at Holy Child Jesus Church and School in Canton.
 
At an early age, Thea was exposed to the richness of her African-American culture and spirituality, most especially the history, stories, songs, prayers, customs and traditions. At the age of fifteen, she told her parents and friends she wanted to join the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and left the familiar Mississippi terrain to venture to the unfamiliar town of LaCrosse, Wisconsin where she would be the only African-American member of her religious community. At her religious profession, she was given the name, “Sister Mary Thea” in honor of the Blessed Mother and her father, Theon. Her name in religious life, Thea, literally means “God.” She was trained to become a teacher. She taught at all grade levels, eventually earning her doctorate and becoming a college professor of English and linguistics.
 
In 1984, Sister Thea faced devastating challenges: both her parents died, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sister Thea vowed to “live until I die” and continued her rigorous schedule of speaking engagements. Even when it became increasingly painful and difficult to travel as the cancer metastasized to her bones, she was undeterred from witnessing and sharing her boundless love for God and the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
Donned in her customary African garb, Sister Thea would arrive in a wheel chair with no hair (due to the chemotherapy treatments) but always with her a joyful disposition and pleasant smile. She did not let the deterioration of her body keep her from one unprecedented event, an opportunity to address the U.S. Bishops at their annual June meeting held in 1989 at Seton Hall University in East Orange, NJ. Sister Thea spoke to the bishops as a sister having a “heart to heart” conversation with her brothers.
 
She explained what it meant to be African-American and Catholic. She enlightened the bishops on African-American history and spirituality. Sister Thea urged the bishops to continue to evangelize the African-American community, to promote inclusivity and full participation of African-Americans within Church leadership, and to understand the necessity and value of Catholic schools in the African- American community. At the end of her address, she invited the bishops to move together, cross arms and sing with her, “We Shall Overcome.” She seemingly touched the hearts of the bishops as evidenced by their thunderous applause and tears flowing from their eyes.
 
During her short lifetime (52 years), many people considered her a religious Sister undeniably close to God and who lovingly invited others to encounter the presence of God in their lives. She is acclaimed a “holy woman” in the hearts of those who knew and loved her and continue to seek her intercession for guidance and healing.
 
Today across the United States there are schools; an education foundation to assist needy students to attend Catholic universities; housing units for the poor and elderly, and a health clinic for the marginalized named in her honor. Books, articles, catechetical resources, visual media productions, a stage play, have been written documenting her exemplary life. Prayer cards, works of art, statues, and stained-glass windows bearing her image all attest to Sister Thea’s profound spiritual impact and example of holiness for the faithful.
 
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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Sr. Thea Bowman, Bishop Robert P. Deeley, Committee on Canonical Affairs, Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, Diocese of Jackson, canonical consultation, canonization, Cause for Canonization.
 
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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200
 

 

U. S. Bishops Vote for Conference Treasurer-Elect, Chairmen of Two Committees, and Chairmen-Elect of Five Committees at Fall General Assembly in Baltimore

BALTIMORE—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gathering in Baltimore for today's 2018 General Assembly have elected a new conference treasurer-elect along with a new chairman of the Committee for Catholic Education and Committee on National Collections, and chairmen-elect of five additional standing committees.

Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, Diocese of St. Petersburg has been elected as treasurer-elect for the USCCB on the ballot with 157 votes over Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, Archdiocese of Indianapolis, who received 87 votes.

Additionally, Bishop Michael C. Barber Diocese of Oakland, has been elected as chairman of the Committee for Catholic Education in a 142 to 103 vote over Bishop David J. Malloy, Diocese of Rockford.

Also, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne, Archdiocese of Anchorage, was also voted chairman of the Committee on National Collections in a 137 to 111 vote over Bishop Thomas A. Daly, Diocese of Spokane.  

The five chairmen-elect are:  

Bishop James F. Checchio, Diocese of Metuchen, as chairman-elect of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations in a 168 to 77 vote over Bishop Michael F. Olson, Diocese of Fort Worth.  

Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, Archdiocese of Hartford, as chairman-elect of the Committee on Divine Worship in a 132 to 113 vote over Bishop David L. Ricken, Diocese of Green Bay.

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City as chairman-elect of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development in a 140 to 105 vote over Archbishop John C. Wester, Archdiocese of Santa Fe.  

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco was elected chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth after a tie vote of 125 votes with nominee Bishop John F. Doerfler of Marquette. Archbishop Cordileone was named chairman, per voting protocol, due to having been ordained a bishop longer.

Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville-Rodriguez, Archdiocese of Washington as chairman-elect of the Committee on Migration in a 158 to 88 vote over Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., Diocese of Lexington.  

The treasurer-elect and the five committee chairmen-elect will serve one year before beginning three-year terms at the conclusion of the bishops' 2019 Fall General Assembly.  

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Archdiocese of the Military Services, Bishop James V. Johnston Jr., Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop Oscar A. Solis, Diocese of Salt Lake City, were also elected to the board of Catholic Relief Services.

The 2019 USCCB budget was also voted on by the U.S. Bishops and passed with 223 to 12 votes.

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Keywords: USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, November meeting, fall General Assembly, Baltimore, committees, elections, conference secretary, chairmen-elect  

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Statement Regarding Their Deep Concern About Restricting Access to Asylum

Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, Presidents of Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Legal Immigration Network Issued Statement Regarding Their Deep Concern About Restricting Access to Asylum

WASHINGTON— Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration, Sister Donna Markham, OP, Phd, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, Jeanne Atkinson, Executive Director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, and Sean Callahan, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services issued an statement reiterating that it is not a crime to seek asylum and urging the Administration to seek other solutions that will strengthen the integrity of the existing immigration system.

On November 9, 2018, President Trump issued a proclamation (https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-proclamation-addressing-mass-migration-southern-border-united-states/?utm_source=link) barring people arriving to the U.S./Mexico border from receiving U.S. asylum unless they request it at a U.S. port of entry, a direct contradiction of existing U.S. asylum law (see https://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-29/0-0-0-1687.html#0-0-0-192)

The full statement follows:

“While our teaching acknowledges the right of each nation to regulate its borders, we find this action deeply concerning. It will restrict and slow access to protection for hundreds of children and families fleeing violence in Central America, potentially leaving them in unsafe conditions in Mexico or in indefinite detention situations at the U.S./Mexico border. We reiterate that it is not a crime to seek asylum and this right to seek refuge is codified in our laws and in our values. We urge the Administration to seek other solutions that will strengthen the integrity of the existing immigration system, while assuring access to protection for vulnerable children and families. The Catholic Church will continue to serve, accompany and assist all those who flee persecution, regardless of where they seek such protection and where they are from.”

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, Committee on Migration, Sean Callahan, Catholic Relief Services, Sister Donna Markham, Catholic Charities USA, Jeanne Atkinson, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, migrants, asylum, immigration.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

Ecumenical and Interfaith Leaders Ask Congress to Repeal the “Parking Lot Tax”

WASHINGTON— Today, leaders of diverse faiths and religious nonprofits asked Congress to repeal a recent change to the Internal Revenue Code in Section 512(a)(7) that threatens to tax nonprofit organizations—including houses of worship—for the cost of parking and transit benefits provided to their employees. Many have referred to this provision as the “parking lot tax”.

Leaders representing a broad range of institutions, including houses of worship, primary and secondary education, higher education, and faith-based nonprofit organizations sent a letter to House and Senate chairmen and ranking members.

The letter states: “We write with serious concerns about how a little-noticed provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would tax parking and transit benefits provided by nonprofit organizations and churches. Unless repealed, this provision will require tens of thousands of houses of worship to file tax returns for the first time in our nation’s history and will impose a new tax burden on houses of worship and nonprofit organizations.”

The letter continues: “Perhaps worst of all, this provision will hopelessly entangle the IRS with houses of worship, simply because these houses of worship allow their clergy to park in their parking lots. For good reasons grounded in the First Amendment, houses of worship are not required to file tax returns each year. This policy allows houses of worship to operate independently from the government and shields houses of worship from government interference and intrusive public inspection into their internal, constitutionally protected operations, as nonprofit tax returns are available to the public.”

Signatories from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, The Jewish Federations of North America, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Agudath Israel of America, Islamic Relief USA, Indian American Muslim Council, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church of Scientology National Affairs Office, The Episcopal Church, National Association of Evangelicals, Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty, Catholic Charities USA, and many other organizations concerned about this new tax joined Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Chairman of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Frank R. Dewane of Venice, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in signing the letter.

A link to the letter can be found here: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Letter-on-Parking-Lot-Tax-November-13-2018.pdf
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Keywords: Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Bishop Frank Dewane, USCCB, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, parking lot tax, Section 512(a)(7), First Amendment
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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200