MCC: Some firearms regulations could serve common good

by Matthew Davis

ST. PAUL (March 8) - As gun control advocates have focused on the Minnesota State Capitol in the weeks following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, the Legislature has delayed gun regulation bills. Minnesota Catholic Conference Executive Director Jason Adkins doesn’t anticipate the state’s legislative response to gun control to change this session.

“Gun-violence restraining orders for persons struggling with mental illness has a very small chance of moving forward,” Adkins said. “But it is more likely that the political response to school shootings will be calls for more funding for mental illness treatment and counseling in schools, as well as more funding for school security measures.”

Adkins does not believe political efforts to curb gun violence by addressing mental illness alone will suffice. The MCC has been tracking bills in the House and Senate regarding firearms possession and background checks. All of the bills were introduced in 2017, prior to the Florida shooting. While opposition to gun control legislation often stems from a defense of the Second Amendment, Adkins said it’s important to look at the issue “in terms of rights and responsibilities.”

Just because “shootings begin with wounds in the heart does not mean we are impotent to enact gun control measures to make people safer,” he said. “We have to protect people with prudent laws while we bind the wounds of hurting people and address the social and cultural factors that nurture gun violence.”

The Second Amendment allows for the right to bear arms and has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to allow for self-defense. “The right to self-defense is part of the natural law, and the use of force one applies in self-defense can be effective force,” Adkins said. “You don’t have to bring a butter knife to a gun fight.

“But the natural right to self-defense and the civil right to own a gun come with duties and responsibilities to the common good,” Adkins continued. “In particular, the public has a responsibility to ensure that those who exercise gun ownership can do so responsibly. Therefore, tools like background checks and gun-violence restraining orders for people with mental illnesses are legitimate regulations of gun ownership.”

He added that the Legislature can also legitimately enact “bans on certain classes of weapons that are meant for military personnel, or that can endanger large groups of people in the wrong hands” because of the right to life. He also noted that “improvements in gun technology can make weapons more dangerous, but also much safer.”

“Legislatures must balance these considerations in their particular social, cultural and geographic contexts,” Adkins said. “There is not necessarily one over-arching set of gun regulations that should apply in all places and at all times.”

Note: The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota. MCC supports the ministry of our state’s Catholic bishops by:

  • Working with political and community leaders to shape legislation that serves human dignity and the common good
  • Educating Catholics and the public about the ethical and moral framework that should be applied to public policy choices
  • Mobilizing the Catholic community to make its voice heard in the public arena

For further information about MCC visit

Chairmen Call Faithful to Prayer and Action Urging Congress to Enact the Conscience Protection Act

March 6, 2018

WASHINGTON – Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty urge the faithful to flood Congress with emails and calls asking for enactment of the Conscience Protection Act as part of the 2018 funding bill and to pray for this outcome. Congress is currently considering whether to include the Conscience Protection Act in must-pass government funding legislation, and a decision on the Conscience Protection Act’s inclusion will be made prior to March 23, 2018.

The joint statement follows:

“Increasing and fierce attacks on conscience rights regarding abortion cry out for an immediate remedy. Nurses and other health care providers and institutions are being forced to choose between participating in abortions or leaving health care altogether. Churches and pro-life Americans are being forced to provide coverage for elective abortions—including late-term abortions—in their health care plans. Opponents and supporters of abortion should be able to agree that no one should be forced to participate in abortion. Congress must remedy this problem by enacting the Conscience Protection Act now as part of the FY 2018 funding bill.

We call on all the faithful to pray and to act by emailing and calling Congress in the coming week especially on Monday, March 12 with the message that enacting the Conscience Protection Act is urgently needed to protect Americans from being forced to violate their deeply held convictions about respect for human life. Your calls and emails to your Members of Congress really do make a difference, so please act now to protect conscience rights!”

Members of Congress can be reached by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asking to be connected with your representative or senator.  Or you can email and call your Members of Congress quickly and easily at

The USCCB has also created a video available on its YouTube channel and

For additional information and videos featuring nurses who were forced by their employers to choose between their jobs and participating in abortions go to


U.S. Bishops’ Migration Chairman Urges Immediate “Humane Solution” for Dreamers after Monday’s Supreme Court Decision

February 27, 2018

WASHINGTON — On February 26, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the government's request to hear its "appeal before judgment" on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) cases. Accordingly, the lower court injunctions in the California and New York, DACA cases remain in effect nationally and DACA renewals remain available to those who currently have DACA status.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the Committee on Migration, stated:

"Monday's Supreme Court decision does not reduce the urgency of finding an immediate legislative solution for Dreamers, people who were brought to the United States as children and have known only our country as their home. The anxiety and uncertainty that Dreamers and their families face remain unabated. Monday was our National Call-in Day for Dreamers, when thousands of Catholics urged their leaders in Congress to protect Dreamers. These faithful took action because they recognize that protecting these young people from deportation is an issue of human life and dignity, and that a legislative solution is necessary to make that protection durable. My brother Bishops and I continue to call upon Congress to work towards a bipartisan and humane solution as soon as possible."

Pope on first Sunday of Lent: Now is the time for conversion

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2018 / 09:10 am (CNA/EWTN News) - Lent is a time to face our temptations and be converted by the Gospel, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on the first Sunday of Lent.

His reflections were based on the passage in the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus is tempted by Satan in the desert for 40 days.

Jesus goes into the desert to prepare for his mission on earth, the Pope said.

While Jesus has no need of conversion himself, he must go to the desert out of obedience to God the Father and "for us, to give us the grace to overcome temptation."

“For us, too, Lent is a time of spiritual ‘training’, of spiritual combat: we are called to face the Evil one through prayer, to be able, with God’s help, to overcome him in our daily life,” he continued.

Immediately after he is tempted, Jesus goes out of the desert to preach the Gospel, which demands conversion from all who hear it, the Holy Father said.

“(Jesus) proclaims, ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel!’ — believe, that is, in this Good News that the kingdom of God is at hand. In our life we always have need of conversion — every day! — and the Church has us pray for this. In fact, we are never sufficiently oriented toward God, and we must continually direct our mind and our heart to Him."

Lent is the time to have the courage to reject anything that leads us away from God and repent, Francis noted, “but it is not a sad time!”

“It is a joyful and serious duty to strip ourselves of our selfishness, of our ‘old man,’ and to renew ourselves according to the grace of our Baptism,” he said.

During Lent, we must listen to the call of Christ and be converted, recognizing that true happiness lies in God alone, Francis said.

He concluded his address with an appeal to Mary:

“May Mary Most Holy help us to live this Lent with fidelity to the Word of God and with incessant prayer, as Jesus did in the desert. It is not impossible! It means living the days with the desire to welcome the love that comes from God, and that desires to transform our life, and the whole world.”

This Lent, revive your enthusiasm for the faith, Pope says

By Hannah Brockhaus

Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - In his message for the Lenten season which begins today, (Feb. 14 - Ash Wednesday) Pope Francis urged people to renew their enthusiasm for the faith, using this season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as an opportunity to stoke the flame of charity in their heart.

“Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer,” the Pope said in his message, published Feb. 6.

“If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.”

At the Easter Vigil, we will light the Easter candle, he said, explaining how it symbolizes a “new fire,” and will “slowly overcome the darkness and illuminate the liturgical assembly.”

“May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds,” he continued. “By listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist, may our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.”

Written on the Solemnity of All Saints, the Pope’s message for Lent is on the theme: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold (Matt. 24:12).”

In the message, he warned against both cold hearts and “false prophets,” which he said tempt us to be led and enslaved by our emotions, or by a desire for wealth. “How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness!” he wrote.

This is the core of Pope Francis’ Lenten message: to draw attention to the fact that there are many experiences which “whittle away all of [our] enthusiasm and zeal” for the faith, Cardinal Peter Turkson told CNA Feb. 6.

Head of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, he said that living as a disciple of Jesus has a lot of challenges, and therefore Francis’ message highlights the need to re-kindle the fire of our faith.

“Love can become cold because there are very many things which prevent it from sustaining the warmth of enthusiasm that it had,” Turkson explained. Therefore, this message invites us, through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, to re-inspire our love of God and neighbor.

“And this is crucial because all the good works that we decide to do… are all animated by a sense of love,” he continued.

Seeing the problems in the world and within ourselves, the solution is to turn to the Church, Pope Francis said, because along with the truth, she “offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”

One of the biggest obstacles to charity, he continued, is the evil of greed of money, which is what almsgiving helps to counteract.

“How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us!” the Pope said. “How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church!”

Almsgiving is very fitting during Lent, he continued, but added that he hopes that “even in our daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we would see such requests as coming from God himself.”

Almsgiving, along with prayer and fasting, are intended as instruments to fight both sin within ourselves and its effect on the world. For from greed, follows “the rejection of God and his peace,” he said. We begin to prefer “our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments.”

Greed also may lead us to violence, he noted, pointing to how we lash out, in particular, at those we think threaten the “certainties” of our lives, such as the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the immigrant, or even just the neighbor “who does not live up to our expectations.”

Almsgiving is a way of setting us free from greed, acknowledging that “what I possess is never mine alone.”

In fasting, too, we are given the opportunity to grow, he said, both by experiencing the hunger that many people around the world experience daily, and by expressing our own “spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God.”

“Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbor. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger,” he said.

He explained that devoting more time to prayer also helps us to root out vice from our hearts and to find consolation in God, who is our Father and who “wants us to live life well.”

“Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life,” the Pope said. “With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth.”

He also said that the Church would again be celebrating the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which is a day for the whole Church to focus on the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation, within the context of Eucharistic adoration.

This year, it will take place March 9-10, he said, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness.” In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, he said, offering opportunities for adoration and sacramental confession.

Led by Pope Francis, “24 Hours for the Lord” is a worldwide initiative which points to confession as a primary way to experience God's merciful embrace. It was launched in 2014 under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Statement from Diocese of New Ulm Regarding Fr. Bernard Steiner’s Return to Limited Ministry

NEW ULM, Minn. – Fr. Bernard Steiner has returned to limited ministry based on the recommendation of the independent Diocesan Review Board following a completed investigation by police that found no substantial credible evidence to support the abuse allegation made against him

Fr. Steiner is allowed to concelebrate Mass and administer the Anointing of the Sick in the presence of other members of the clergy.

Fr. Steiner was ordained in February 1961 for the Diocese of New Ulm. He retired from assigned parish ministry in 2005. For the following 11 years, he celebrated Mass and administered the sacraments at area parishes and at Our Lady of Good Counsel for the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Mankato. In 2016, the Diocese of New Ulm removed him from all public ministry following notification of a civil claim made against him stemming from his time as pastor at the Church of St. Paul in Comfrey in the 1970s. His removal from ministry was publicized in 2016. No other claimants have come forward with reports againstIt is standard procedure for the Diocese of New Ulm to remove a member of the clergy from ministry if an allegation has been made against him. The Diocese of New Ulm takes all allegations against clergy very seriously and continues to ask that anyone with information about sexual misconduct by clergy report it to law enforcement. In addition, anyone who has suffered sexual abuse by clergy is encouraged to contact the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at 507-233-5313 for counseling or other assistance in healing.

Bishop John M. LeVoir requests prayers for both Fr. Steiner and the individual who made the claim against him.


Senate vote to prevent filibuster on 20-week abortion ban fails

By Courtney Grogan

Washington D.C., Jan 29, 2018 (CNA) - A procedural vote on a Senate bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks failed on the evening of Jan. 29, after more than three hours of debate. The cloture motion, which would have prevented a filibuster on the bill, required 60 votes to pass, and failed by a vote of 51-46.

The bill could continue to be considered in the Senate, even with the prospect of a filibuster, though this is not widely expected. The bill is likely to be a topic of debate in 2018 Senate elections.

The  U.S. is one of seven countries in the world that allow abortions after 5 months of pregnancy.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act proposes that abortion be made illegal after 20 weeks of gestation, on the basis that fetal neural development enables the unborn to experience pain at that point. The bill includes exceptions for an abortion in the case of rape or incest, as well in the circumstances in which the pregnancy threatened the life or the mother.

“After 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling,” according to the text of the Pain-Capable Act.

Because of an unborn child’s sensitivity to pain at this stage, anesthesia is regularly administered during in-utero surgery after 20 weeks. An ultrasound can reveal the gender of an unborn child, who can be viewed sucking their thumb, yawning, or stretching by 20 weeks of pregnancy. The nervous system begins functioning in the fourth month of pregnancy.

The bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives in Oct. 2017, is opposed by most Senate Democrats. To prevent a filibuster, Republicans needed Democratic support, in addition to the votes of the 51 Republican Senators.

Democratic Senators Bob Casey, Joe Manchin, and Joe Donnelly supported the motion. Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski voted against it.

Twenty-one states currently have a law banning abortion after 20 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute. A recent Marist poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus found that 76 percent of Americans support limiting abortion to the first trimester of pregnancy.

“There is no reason why this should be a partisan issue,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor before the vote.

“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act reflects a mainstream, growing consensus that unborn children should not be subjected to elective-abortion after 20 weeks,” he added.

In France, Italy, and Germany, abortion is illegal after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The United States, China, North Korea, Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Vietnam are the seven countries that permit elective abortions after 20 weeks.

Catholic Schools Week 2018, January 28-February 3, to Focus on “spiritual, academic and societal contributions” of Catholic Schools

January 23, 2018

WASHINGTON — National Catholic Schools Week 2018 (CSW) will be observed in dioceses around the country January 28–February 3. This year’s theme, “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.,” focuses on the important spiritual, academic and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education.

As Bishop George V. Murry, SJ, of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Catholic Education said, “Catholic schools provide an invaluable service to young people, their families, and our nation by helping to form women and men with the sharp intellects, broad perspectives and big hearts who bring their best to communities near and far. Jesus Christ came to change hearts and to serve – one person at a time – and so Catholic schools invite students to encounter Christ, to be changed by Him, and love God by serving others with all of their heart, mind, soul and strength.”

One way Catholic school students have been challenged to “learn, serve, lead and succeed” this academic year has been through the National Catholic Educational Association’s (NCEA) “Student to Student” campaign. In August, NCEA began a national campaign that invited Catholic school families to donate at least $1 toward the “Student to Student: A Catholic School Response to Hurricane Harvey” campaign to help those Catholic school communities hardest hit by the events in the United States, the Caribbean and U.S. territories. The campaign was eventually renamed “Student to Student: A Catholic School Response to Hurricane Relief 2017” to include those that followed Harvey and the wildfires in the west. As of last month, 826 Catholic schools from across the country donated more than $600,000 to this solidarity effort. 300 students at Lumen Christi High School in the Archdiocese of Anchorage, for example, put on a taco lunch and raised more than $900. NCEA has begun the process of disbursing funds to Catholic arch/dioceses affected by recent natural disasters, beginning with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Nearly 1.9 million students are currently educated in 6,429 Catholic schools in cities, suburbs, small towns and rural communities around the country. Students receive an education that prepares them for higher education, a competitive work environment, and most importantly, living a Christian life of virtue in a challenging society.  “Since their founding in our country, Catholic schools have provided a well-rounded education to disadvantaged families, new arrivals to America and to all who seek a seat in our schools. We have always sought to welcome families of all backgrounds while maintaining our principles and teaching in a spirit of charity,” Bishop Murry said.

The observance of CSW began in 1974. Schools and parishes around the country will hold activities such as Masses, open houses, and pot luck gatherings to celebrate the communities they represent. The week also highlights the educational and community successes of Catholic schools nationwide. Ninety nine percent of students graduate from high school and 86 percent of Catholic school graduates attend college.  This percentage has been consistent over the past 20 years.

More information on the Committee on Catholic Education and other resources are available online: and Catholic Schools Week can also be followed on Twitter @USCCBCatholicEd, @NCEATalk, and throughout social media via #CSW18.

Bishops stand with 'Dreamers' as DACA battles continue

by Courtney Grogan

Washington D.C., (CNA) - Catholic leaders have responded to developments in the legal battle over the DACA program, including a court order maintaining legal protections for undocumented youth, known as “Dreamers,” and a presidential commitment to legislative support for them.

U.S. District Judge William Alsap’s Jan. 9 order temporarily blocks President Trump’s attempt to phase out the DACA program, which was initiated by President Obama in 2012. Nearly 690,000 undocumented immigrants are beneficiaries of the DACA program. 

While President Trump has worked to phase out the program, he has also called for a legislative solution to resolve the immigration status of DACA recipients. In a televised meeting with bipartisan lawmakers Tuesday, President Trump that he hopes to reach a solution for DACA recipients with a “bill of love.”

In a recent column, Archbishop José Gomez expressed concern for the estimated 125,000 DACA recipients who live within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, all of whom could face deportation when the program ends in March.

“It would be cruel to punish them for the wrongs of their parents, deporting them to countries of origin that they have never seen, where they may not even know the language,” Archbishop Gomez wrote.

The archbishop called for systematic immigration reform, explaining that most DACA recipients have not experienced a healthy U.S. immigration system in their lifetime.

“This debate is passionate and partisan, as it should be. Systematic reform of our immigration policy is absolutely vital to our nation’s future. And we need to have this conversation. But Congress needs to separate the conversation about DACA from these larger issues.”

Deportation of DACA recipients, Gomez said, “would lead to a humanitarian crisis.”

The DACA program postponed deportation of undocumented immigrants under the age of 30, who had been brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and lived in the U.S. since June 2007.

DACA participants are eligible to apply for work permits, obtain social security numbers, and, in most cases, apply for a driver’s license. In 2017, a group of business leaders explained that if DACA recipients were deported, “our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.”

In a Jan.10 statement, Bishop Joe Vasquez, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, wrote that bishops are “encouraged by the consensus that emerged from yesterday’s White House meeting that Congress and the President should move expeditiously to craft and enact legislation that would provide urgently needed relief for Dreamers. For years, these young people have been living in and enriching the United States in many ways. They are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes and communities. They and their families deserve certainty, compassion, generosity, and justice.”

Vasquez also called for financially sound, effective, and safe measures to strengthen national security at the US border. “Our teaching acknowledges and respects the right of sovereign nations to control their borders,” he wrote. “However, we caution against introducing unrelated, unnecessary, or controversial elements of immigration policy—especially those that jeopardize the sanctity of families or unaccompanied children—into the bipartisan search for a just and humane solution for the Dreamers.”

The Minnesota Catholic Conference recently organized a postcard campaign urging lawmakers to support bipartisan legislation that “protects the dignity of every human being,” particularly the “immigrant youth who entered the United States as children and know America as their only home.”  Other Catholic organizations have organized similar campaigns.

“As a nation, we have a moral and humanitarian obligation to Dreamers,” Vasquez wrote.

A Message from the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops During National Migration Week, January 7-13

January 5, 2018

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers a National Migration Week message to the nation with special gratitude for the gift of immigrants and refugees. 

Cardinal DiNardo's statement as follows:  

“On Sunday, the Catholic Church across the United States will celebrate the beginning of National Migration Week.  For nearly 50 years, this week has been a time of prayer and reflection on our history as a migrant Church and nation.  In these five decades, the face of the immigrant may have changed – European, Asian, South American, and elsewhere -- but their faces reveal a common desire to secure the great blessings of American opportunity. 

Pope Francis, in his statement on the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2018, advises us that if we view the situation of migrants and refugees through the wisdom of our faith ‘we discover that they do not arrive empty-handed.  They bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures; and in this way, they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them.’

This week, I invite everyone to reflect on the Holy Father’s words as well as on your own family’s immigration story. Please also join me in prayer for all families, as together, we ‘Share the Journey’ toward a better life.”

National Migration Week 2018 to be Celebrated January 7-13th

WASHINGTON - National Migration Week 2018 will take place January 7-13th. This year’s theme is "Many Journeys, One Family.” The theme coincides with the Caritas Internationalis migration campaign entitled “Share the Journey”. National Migration Week provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the contributions of migrants, including refugees, and victims of human trafficking in our communities.

With over 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes globally, the world is increasingly affected by migration. National Migration Week offers a time to educate Catholic communities about migration and to come together to encounter immigrants and refugees in parishes, dioceses, and communities.

“National Migration Week allows for reflection upon the biblical teaching concerning welcoming the newcomer and allows us to share the journey with our brothers and sisters who have been forced from their homes.” said Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration.

As part of the 2018 National Migration Week celebration, USCCB/MRS will be participating in an event at The Catholic University of America with the Institute for Human Ecology entitled “On the Margins: At the Intersection of Catholic Thought and Migration” on January 11th. To register for the event in person, visit, to view livestream of the event visit

The US bishops began the observance of National Migration Week nearly 50 years ago to give Catholics an opportunity to honor and learn about the diverse communities of the Church, as well as the work that the Church undertakes to serve immigrants and refugees. The week serves as a time for both prayer and action in support of migrants and refugees.

Educational materials and other resources for National Migration Week are available for download at

President Should Work with Congress Toward Acceptable Tax Bill, Says U.S. Bishops Chairman

December 20, 2017

WASHINGTON - After the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passed The Tax Reform and Jobs Act, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, drew attention to unacceptable problems that remain, and called on President Trump to insist that Congress fix them before he signs a bill into law.

The full statement follows:

“Today, Congress passed its tax reform legislation, The Tax Reform and Jobs Act, and it has been sent to the President to consider.  The legislation achieves some laudable things, like doubling the standard deduction, which will help many struggling families avoid tax liability, expanding the use of 529 education plans, and increasing the child tax credit.

However, the Act contains a number of problematic provisions that will have dramatic negative consequences, particularly for those most in need.  Among other things, the Joint Committee on Taxation indicates that the bill will eventually raise taxes on those with lower incomes while simultaneously cutting taxes for the wealthy.  This is clearly problematic, especially for the poor.  The repeal of the personal exemption will cause larger families, including many in the middle class, to be financially worse off.  The final bill creates a large deficit that, as early as next year, will be used as a basis to cut programs that help the poor and vulnerable toward stability.  The legislation is also likely to produce up to a $13 billion drop in annual charitable giving to nonprofits that are relied upon to help those struggling on the margins.  This will also significantly diminish the role of civil society in promoting the common good.

As the President considers the tax bill before him, we ask that he take into account the full consequences of its provisions and work with Congress to remedy them before signing a tax bill into law.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane’s December 6, 2017, letter analyzing the Senate and House bills prior to reconciliation can be found at:


Faith Leaders Affirm the Inherent Beauty and Dignity of Being Created Male or Female

WASHINGTON - Following the USCCB General Assembly in November 2017, a group of ecumenical and interfaith partners gathered with bishops of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage to discuss gender ideology. As a result of this discussion, faith leaders today issued an open letter entitled "Created Male and Female".

Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. of Philadelphia, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, chairman of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs signed the letter.

"We hope this letter communicates to the public our shared understanding of the goodness of the creation of humanity as male or female and underscores our commitment to service of this truth with both clarity and compassion," said Bishop Conley.

The religious leaders stressed the importance of acknowledging the reality of sexual identity, noting, "Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can 'change' their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults. Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of 'first, do no harm.'"

The leaders close with a hope: "We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity."

The letter is available at: and follows three previous open letters: "The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment," issued December 6, 2010, "Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together," issued January 12, 2012, and "The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness," issued on April 23, 2015, which are available at


As pope turns 81, kids entertain with song, dance and 13-foot pizza

By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) - Celebrating his 81st birthday, Pope Francis blew out the candles on a 13-foot long pizza after being serenaded with song and dance by children and employees from a Vatican pediatric clinic.

A group of children receiving assistance from the Vatican's St. Martha Dispensary, a maternal and pediatric clinic, had given the pope a birthday party Dec. 17 marked with singing, dancing and a cake adorned with gold and white fondant decorations.

They also rolled out a large pizza with a single lit candle on it. The pope was joined with several children from the clinic and counted down before blowing out the candle.

Read more at -


Congress should pass a final tax bill only if it assists the poor and vulnerable, as well as working families.

by Katherine Cross, Communications Manager

(651) 256-7579,

ST. PAUL (December 12, 2017) – The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, encouraged Minnesota’s congressional delegation to pass a final tax bill only if it meets key moral considerations.  According to Congress’ own nonpartisan analysis, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” bills recently passed by the House and the Senate raise the tax burden on low-income Americans and cut taxes for the wealthiest, which violates basic principles of distributive justice. 

“The House and Senate tax plans, while premised on the hope of long-term job and economic growth, disproportionately benefit businesses and wealthy Americans instead of working families,” said Jason Adkins, MCC executive director.  “Tax policy should serve the common good and create shared prosperity, not just the hope that long-term economic growth will eventually create jobs, or that corporate profits will eventually redound to the benefit of workers.” 

MCC welcomes the doubling of the standard deduction and the expansion of 529 education plans in the proposed legislation, but has serious concerns about, among other things, the repeal of the personal exemption, which will harm larger families; the failure to expand the child tax credit; the elimination of the deduction for medical expenses in the House plan; the House’s plan to eliminate incentives for employers to offer adoption assistance; and the failure to adopt an “above-the-line” charitable deduction that would incentivize and assist charitable giving at all income levels, and increase the amounts people can give.

“Policy that is good for workers, families who welcome life, families who are struggling to reach (or stay in) the middle class, and the very poor, has by design been a part of our tax code for years," said the Most Reverend Bernard Hebda, Archbishop of St Paul and Minneapolis. "Any modifications to these important priorities should be made only with a clear understanding and concern for the people who may least be able to bear the negative consequences of new policy.”

The Minnesota Catholic Conference joined with the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Social Development, Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, in opposing the passage of the tax bill without important modifications.  The full text of Bishop Dewane’s letter to Congress can be read at

“The Church does not take a position on the proper corporate tax rate,” concluded Adkins.  “But she does speak to the moral considerations and principles that should govern fiscal policy, and by that standard the two tax plans, as currently structured, fail that test and will not serve Minnesotans well.”


USCCB Offers Advent and Christmas Online Resources for Prayerful Preparation

November 29, 2017

WASHINGTON — The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is offering online resources for prayerful preparation for Advent and Christmas. The daily suggestions for reading, reflection, and prayer during the Advent and Christmas seasons are now available online. In addition to a clickable online Advent calendar, with each click opening "doors" to a page of suggested reading, the online page also offers daily reflections, prayers, suggested activities and bilingual calendars that can be printed.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) provides the online Advent and Christmas resources at and

This year, in addition to the traditional bilingual calendar for Advent that can be printed out, the USCCB is also offering a second bilingual Advent calendar specifically for families, with daily suggestions for prayers and activities to do as a family in preparation for Christmas. Suggestions include creating a Jesse Tree, blessing the family Nativity, and taking time to learn about Advent traditions around the world.

Other Advent resources on the website include liturgical notes on the season, a commentary on the proper prayers of the Advent season from the Roman Missal, and prayers and blessings from the USCCB publication Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Also included are lectio divinas for the four Sundays of Advent.

For Christmas, in addition to the clickable calendar and the bilingual calendar that can be printed, there are lectio divinas for four feast days during the Christmas season—the Solemnity of Christmas; the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God; and the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The lectio divinas are also available in English and Spanish.

Advent begins on December 3 and continues until the evening of December 24 when the Christmas season begins. The Christmas season will conclude with the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 8, 2018.

Pope Francis: the poor are our 'passport to paradise'

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - On the first World Day for the Poor, Pope Francis said caring for the needy has a saving power, because in them we see the face of Christ, and urged Christians to overcome indifference and seek ways to actively love the poor that they meet.

“In the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor,” the Pope said Nov. 19. Because of this, “in their weakness, a saving power is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven.”

“They are our passport to paradise,” he said, explaining that it is an “evangelical duty” for Christians to care for the poor as our true wealth.

And to do this doesn't mean just giving them a piece of bread, but also “breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them,” Francis said, adding that to love the poor “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.”

Pope Francis spoke during Mass marking the first World Day of the Poor, which takes place every 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time and is being organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Established by Pope Francis at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy, the World Day for the Poor this year has the theme “Love not in word, but in deed.”

In the week leading up to the event, the poor and needy had access to free medical exams at a makeshift center set up in front of St. Peter's Square.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for Evangelization, led a Nov. 18 prayer vigil at Rome's parish of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls the night before the big event. After Mass with Pope Francis, the poor will be offered a three-course lunch at different centers and organizations around Rome, including the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

According to the Council for Evangelization, some 6-7,000 poor from around Europe, as well as some migrants from around the world, were estimated to attend the Mass along with the organizations that care for them.

In his homily, Pope Francis said no matter our social condition, everyone in life is a beggar when it comes to what is essential, which is God's love, and which “gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.”

Turning to the day's Gospel passage from Matthew recounting the parable of the talents, the Pope noted how in God's eyes, everyone has talents, and consequently, “no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others.”

“God, in whose eyes no child can be neglected, entrusts to each of us a mission,” he said, explaining that God also gives us a responsibility, as is seen in the day's Gospel.

Francis pointed to how in the day's passage only the first two servants make their talent profitable, whereas the third buries it, prompting the master to call him “wicket and lazy.”

Asking what sin the servant had committed that was so wrong, the Pope said above all “it was his omission.”

Many times we believe that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so are content with the presumption that we are good and righteous, he said, but cautioned that with this mentality, “we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground.”

However, “to do no wrong is not enough,” Francis said, adding that God is not “an inspector looking for unstamped tickets.” Rather, he is a Father that looks for children to whom he can entrust both his property and his plans.

“It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments,” he said, noting that someone who is only concerned with preserving the treasures of the past “is not being faithful to God.”

Instead, “the one who adds new talents is truly faithful...he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are. One thing alone does he overlook: his own interest. That is the only right omission.”

Omission, Francis said, is also a big sin where the poor are concerned, though it has a different name: indifference. This sin, he said, takes place when we feel that the brother in need is not our concern, but is society's problem.

The sin typically shows up in our lives when we choose to turn the other way, or “change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it.”

“God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good,” the Pope said.

Asking those present how we can please God, Pope Francis said when we want to give someone a gift, we first have to get to know them. And when we look to the Gospel, we hear Jesus say “when you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

These brothers, he said, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned.

In the poor, “Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love,” he said, adding that “when we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren,” only then are we being faithful.

An example of this attitude is seen in the woman who opens her hand to the poor in the day's first reading from Proverbs, he said. In her, “we see true goodness and strength: not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.”

Choosing to draw near to the poor among us “will touch our lives” and remind us of what really counts, Francis said, explaining that this is love of God and neighbor.

“Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away,” he said. “What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.”

Pope Francis closed his homily saying the choice we all have before us is whether “to live in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven.”

“Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give,” he said. “So let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us.”

How Christians are continuing to help hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nov 14, 2017  (CNA/EWTN News) - Seven weeks after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, the majority of the island is still without power, and many residents are without clean water as well.

While the rebuilding process is slow, Catholic aid groups are working to provide supplies to those who desperately need them.

On Nov. 10, Catholic Charities USA presented $2 million in additional aid to Caritas de Puerto Rico, the Catholic Charities agency on the island. 

This money follows the $1.5 million in funds given by Catholic Charities USA shortly after the hurricane struck the island.

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm. Up to 155 mile per hour winds and heavy rains destroyed buildings, caused massive flooding, and wiped out electricity to the entire island of 3.5 million people.  

The storm has killed at least 51 people, and Puerto Rican authorities have estimated the cost of damages at up to $95 billion.

Many residents are still in need of food and clean drinking water. The lack of communication has also been a serious issue, said one Catholic Charities worker.

“We have been trying to get ahold of the folks here in Utuado for almost a week and have been unable to do so…just packing up the jeep and bringing the supplies here is the only way we are able to communicate,” Kim Burgo told NBC.

More than half the population of Puerto Rico is Catholic, and about a third are Protestant. The island has a strong Christian presence that relies on the support of Christian churches.

While some churches were destroyed by the hurricane, many of those that survived have become safe havens for the Puerto Rican people. Caritas de Puerto Rico has set up locations in Catholic churches across the country to hand out food, water, and hygiene supplies.

Other Christian groups are also working to serve those in need. The Wall Street Journal reported on a Christian church housing more than 500 homeless people and a Southern Baptist group planning to send 200-300 volunteers to open kitchens serving food.

Looking forward, Caritas de Puerto Rico has identified four main objectives as initial steps to long-term restoration: improve distribution of supplies, develop disaster case management teams, provide mental health counselors, and establish a new health clinic on the island.


USCCB Chairmen Urge Congress to Provide International Funding for Climate Change

November 10, 2017

WASHINGTON -  In a letter to members of Congress today, Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Bishop Oscar Cantú urge the United States to support international climate assistance during the year-end appropriations process. The bishops request that Congress dedicate $10 million to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the international body that guides climate policy.

The letter appeals to the responsibility to care for the common good and affirms that the “blessings of God’s creation and the duty to care for the common good overflow beyond our borders, especially when it comes to the air and climate shared with all peoples and creatures living on the planet.”

The UNFCCC facilitates international cooperation on climate change through initiatives such as the annual U.N. Climate Change Conference, which is currently taking place in Bonn, Germany. Two years ago, this conference resulted in the Paris Climate Agreement, from which the United States intends to withdraw. The U.S. bishops have expressed disappointment about the decision to not uphold this agreement that is based on unified global action against climate change.

“Restricting funding to the UNFCCC will only weaken the ability of the United States to dialogue in the international arena using a common language based on the best science available,” said Bishops Dewane and Cantú.

“By supporting the UNFCCC, the United States can direct attention and resources towards adaptation measures that help all people, especially the poor, adapt to the effects of climate change globally,” continued the bishops. “By doing so, our nation can better pursue the national interest, support credible climate research and promote the common good within and beyond our borders.”

Bishop Dewane of Venice, Florida, is chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Bishop Cantú of Las Cruces is chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the USCCB. 

The full text of the letter can be found here:


House Tax Reform Bill “Unacceptable” as Written, Say U.S. Bishops Chairmen

November 9, 2017


WASHINGTON—In a letter of November 9, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Bishop George V. Murry, SJ of Youngstown, Ohio called for amendments to the current draft of the House of Representatives tax reform bill “for the sake of families” and “for those struggling on the peripheries of society who have a claim on our national conscience.”

“Doubling the standard deduction will help some of those in poverty to avoid tax liability, and this is a positive good contained in the bill,” wrote the Bishops of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.  “However, as written, this proposal appears to be the first federal income tax modification in American history that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy.  This is simply unconscionable.”

Bishop Dewane is the Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Cantú chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Bishop Murry heads the Committee on Catholic Education.

According to the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), households with income of $20,000 and $40,000 per year will see their taxes raised in 2023, 2025, and again in 2027.  Taxes will also increase on average taxpayers earning between $10,000 and $20,000 in 2025.  At the same time, significant tax breaks to the very wealthy—including millionaires and billionaires—are projected for each year.

The bishop-chairmen highlighted positive provisions in the areas of education and modest increases to child tax credits, but stressed that the bill places “new and unreasonable burdens on families,” and must be changed.  Included among them are the elimination of:  the adoption tax credit and adoption assistance program exclusion, the personal exemption (which will harm many larger families), the out-of-pocket medical expenses deduction, and incentives to employees and employers dependent care assistance or child care, among others.

The letter also cautioned that the deficit could “be used as an argument to further restrict or end programs that help those in need, programs which are investments to help pull struggling families out of poverty.”  Finally, the Bishops called for fixes to disincentives for charitable giving and affordable housing and community revitalization development projects that will result from the legislation.

The full letter can be found at: