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The Gruesome Reality of Abortion

Dismemberment 16 wk diagramIn 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published a book that changed the course of American history. Her brutal depiction of slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin illustrated the real human cost of the defining political controversy of her time. Stowe’s tale of one fictional family’s devastating experience with slavery is based on “a collection and arrangement of real incidents” which she describes as a “mosaic of facts.” (A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1858)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was an instant best-seller that brought the debate about slavery into most American homes. It changed what people knew and understood about it, and shed light on how our laws perpetuated the practice. When Americans in the North accepted the truth about slavery, their resolve to outlaw it strengthened. It was not enough to be personally opposed to slavery; they were willing to take up arms to end it.

Abortion is the defining political controversy of our time; but do we know and understand its real human cost?

A recent report shows that 31,818 abortions were committed in Pennsylvania in 2015. (This is 308 fewer than in 2014.) All but a handful of these abortions used one of three methods:

Medical/Non-Surgical. (11,314 abortions) For pregnancies up to 10 weeks, chemicals are used to end the life of the baby. A woman takes Mifepristone (RU-486) in the form of a pill at an abortion clinic. “By blocking the action of progesterone, mifepristone alters the endometrium (the uterine lining), induces bleeding, and causes the uterine lining to shed.” ( With blood and nourishment cut off, the baby dies inside his mother’s womb. One or two days later, the woman takes another drug called Misoprostol (Cytotec) which causes contractions and bleeding to expel the dead baby from the womb.

Suction Curettage. (18,908 abortions) Also known as vacuum aspiration, this method is used between 5 and 14 weeks of gestation. Typically the woman’s cervix is dilated then a plastic tube “is carefully and gently inserted into the uterus and then attached to a suction, or vacuum aspiration, machine. When the machine is turned on … the contents of the uterus will be emptied … To ensure that the abortion is complete, extracted tissue is examined immediately after the procedure.” (The Abortion Resource Handbook (1997), pg. 152) In layman’s terms, the living unborn child, now about 4-5 inches long, is forcibly sucked out of her mother’s womb. Then technicians count the arms, legs, head and torso to make sure all parts of the baby are accounted for.

Dilation & Evacuation. (1,588 abortions) This particularly gruesome method is used for later-term abortions between 13 and 24 weeks. Abortions after 24 weeks are illegal. The woman’s cervix is dilated. The amniotic fluid is suctioned out first, and then the doctor inserts a sharp instrument to dismember the live baby inside the womb. The tool has sharp teeth that firmly grip the child’s arms, legs, torso, and head. One by one, the body parts are forcibly ripped off and removed from the uterus. The baby’s head at this stage is too big to pull out intact, so the doctor will crush it before pulling it out. Babies at this second-trimester stage have fingerprints and toenails, and they can feel pain. Their mothers start to feel them kicking, and many babies born at 20 weeks will survive outside the womb. (

A new legislative session has begun in Harrisburg presenting fresh opportunities to shape pro-life public policy. With faith, perseverance, and the courage to tell the truth, abolitionists in the 19th century outlawed slavery. Will citizens 150 years from now say the same about us and abortion?

HOPE-abortion-logoReading about the brutal practice of abortion is painful for many. If someone you know suffers because of involvement with abortion, please encourage him or her to talk to a priest or contact the nearest Project Rachel Ministry by visiting the “Find Help” map at or or calling (866) 3RACHEL . . . . And please pray that many will seek and receive the gift of God’s infinite mercy.

JANUARY 2017 column. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania. Stay up-to-date with Catholic news and issues at,, and

Support an End to Violence in Aleppo, Syria

This mother of 4 left Syria with 2 of her sons. Her goal is to meet her brother in Germany. Photo courtesy of Natalia Tsoukala/Caritas

This mother of 4 left Syria with 2 of her sons. Her goal is to meet her brother in Germany. Photo courtesy of Natalia Tsoukala/Caritas

From CRS- With a ceasefire collapsing in Aleppo Wednesday, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) supports the efforts of Pope Francis, who appealed for “an end to the violence and the peaceful resolution of hostilities” in Syria. Pope Francis also called for full respect of international law in a letter sent yesterday to the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, through Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria.

As a humanitarian organization that has come to the aid of more than 1.25 million war-affected Syrians across the Middle East and Europe, CRS calls on all sides of this conflict to safeguard lives and ensure humanitarian access. 

“Peace is the only viable option,” said Sean Callahan, CRS’ chief operating officer, who returned from a visit to the region this week.  “Far too many lives have been lost in this conflict, and we join Pope Francis’ call to protect human rights, grant safe passage for all those trying to flee the violence, and for urgent humanitarian aid to reach those who desperately need it.”

Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Eparchy of Saint Maron in Brooklyn, NY, and CRS board chairman, added: “In my many travels to the region, I’ve witnessed the harrowing circumstances that millions of Syrians have lived through since the war began nearly six years ago. Let us heed the call of the Holy Father and end the violence and pray for a peaceful resolution to the hostilities.”

The United States must renew the serious international, diplomatic effort to end the fighting in Syria and find solutions to the conflict. CRS urges the U.S. Administration and the international community to work together to provide immediate and impartial humanitarian assistance, and to encourage steps towards an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens. This is the only way the displaced will be able to return home. 

“The path ahead will be arduous, but the time is long past for the international community to pursue diplomacy and peace in Syria and the region,” added Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, NM, who chairs the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) International Justice and Peace Committee.  “In the final analysis only peace will end the refugee crisis, preserve the Christian presence, and allow inclusive societies to be built that respect the human rights of all.”

Learn more and donate here.

PCC Board Member Named Bishop of Rockville Centre


Bishop John O. Barres

From the Diocese of Allentown:

Pope Francis has appointed Diocese of Allentown Bishop John O. Barres as the next Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY, which consists of Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. The announcement was publicized this morning by the Papal Nuncio to the United States Archbishop Christophe Pierre.

Bishop Barres, 56, is the first Bishop of Allentown in the diocese’s 55 year history to be transferred to another diocese. The Rockville Centre Diocese, established in 1957, is the sixth largest diocese by Catholic population in the United States. It serves 1.5 million Catholics with 291 active priests (diocesan and extern) in 133 parishes.

Bishop Barres will succeed Bishop William Murphy, 76, who has led the Rockville Centre Diocese since 2001. Bishop Murphy turned 75 in May 2015 and submitted his letter of resignation at that time as required by church law. The Pope accepted Bishop Murphy’s resignation today.

Bishop Barres will be introduced to his new diocese when he concelebrates morning Mass with Bishop Murphy at the Cathedral of Saint Agnes in Rockville Centre. The Mass will be streamed on at 8:30 AM. At 10:30 AM, Bishops Murphy and Barres will appear jointly on Telecare’s news program “Everyday Faith Live,” also live streamed at

Bishop Barres has been shepherd of the Diocese of Allentown since July 2009. In a statement on his new appointment, Bishop Barres said, “I must…thank the priests and the entire people of God of the Diocese of Allentown, where I have had the great blessing of serving as bishop for the last seven-and-a-half years. You will all always be in my heart, my memories, my prayers and my Masses as I remember our days of ‘holiness and mission’ together.”

Bishop Barres will be installed as the new Bishop of Rockville Centre at the cathedral there on January 31. Until that date, he will serve as the Diocesan Administrator for the Diocese of Allentown. Upon his installation, the Diocese of Allentown’s College of Consultors, a group of ten senior priests, will elect an Administrator who will serve until a new bishop is installed.

Contact: Matt Kerr
               610-871-5200, Extension 263 


Religious freedom, first among our liberties, is under threat

american_flagDecember 15 marks the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. The Philadelphia Inquirer is running a 12-part series to mark the occasion, and invited Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who is also the chairman of the PCC, to write about the First Amendment:

Religious freedom is a fundamental natural right and first among our liberties. This is borne out by the priority protection it specifically enjoys in the Constitution’s First Amendment.

 Consider four brief points.

First, religious faith and practice are cornerstones of the American experience. Many of America’s first settlers were fleeing religious persecution. Nearly all of the American founders saw religious faith as vital to the life of a free people. They believed that liberty and happiness grow organically out of virtue. And for the founders, virtue needed grounding in religious faith.

At the heart of American public life is an essentially religious vision of man and government. This model has given us a free society marked by a wide variety of cultural and religious expressions. But our system’s success does not result from clever legal mechanics. Our system works precisely because of the moral assumptions that undergird it. And those assumptions have religious roots.

When the founders talked about religion, they meant more than a vague “spirituality.” The distinguished legal scholar Harold Berman showed that the founders – though they had differing views about religion among themselves – understood religion positively as “both belief in God and belief in an after-life of reward for virtue, and punishment for sin.” In other words, religion mattered. It made people live differently and live better. People’s faith was assumed to have broad implications, including the political kind.

That leads to my second point: Freedom of religion is more than freedom of worship. The right to worship is a necessary but not a sufficient part of religious liberty. For most believers, and certainly for Christians, faith requires community. It begins in worship, but it also demands preaching, teaching, and service. Real faith always bears fruit in public witness and action. Otherwise it’s just empty words.

Continue reading here.

Report: PA’s Catholic Parishes, Ministries have Huge Economic Impact

Feed The WorldWe’ve told you before about the over $2 billion Catholic schools save Pennsylvania taxpayers each year. Of course the benefits go beyond the dollar signs, as the hundreds of Pennsylvania Catholic schools have graduated intelligent, successful, and community-minded citizens who have been encourage to grow in wisdom and grace throughout their education. Catholic high schools boast nearly 100% graduation rates, with over 90% of those graduates going on to college or university.

Now, new research tells Pennsylvanians of the huge positive charitable impact that Catholic parishes, schools, hospitals, and ministries have on the community. In real dollars, that impact translates to an average of $1.5 million per congregation, “They bring economic value, they bring a civic value, and that you don’t have to be Catholic to care about the Catholic Church.”

You can read more about the report and the so-called “economic halo effect” here.


2015-2016 Session End Legislative Status Report

The 2015-2016 session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly officially closes on November 30. Here is the status of the several high priority bills that were on the legislative agenda of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.

Pro-Life Legislation – House Bill 1948 would have banned barbaric dismemberment abortions and abortions when the unborn baby is able to feel pain (20 weeks). It passed in the House, was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the session came to an end without a Senate vote. Governor Wolf promised to veto the bill, so it would have been unlikely to become law. The election brings some small but important political changes to Pennsylvania’s General Assembly which could bring strength to the pro-life cause in the next session.

Adoption Records – House Bill 162 was passed by the General Assembly and was signed into law by the governor.  It allows an adoptee to obtain a noncertified copy of his or her original birth record (what is commonly referred to as a birth certificate), naming the birth parents, unless a birth parent files a name redaction request form with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The filing of the name redaction request form would protect that birth parent’s privacy because the birth certificate issued to the adoptee would not name the birth parent. This new law changes the current law, which kept the identity of a birth parent confidential unless the birth parent agreed to disclosure. Now, a birth parent, in past and future adoptions, must take affirmative action to protect his or her identity by filing the name redaction request form. The PCC will pursue opportunities to alert the public and especially birth parents through Catholic media channels and when the redaction forms become available.

Human Trafficking – Senate Bill 851 would have ensured that juvenile victims of human trafficking are not prosecuted as criminals and that support services are made available to them. No action was taken by the end of the session, but legislation may be reintroduced next session.

Organ Donation –The Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association was successful in amending legislation that encourages organ donation so it is clear who is able to receive information and/or consent to an organ or tissue gift on behalf of a patient. The amended bill did not allow presumed consent for patients who have not explicitly indicated their wishes to donate organs; however, the General Assembly did not take up the bill before the end of the session.

End of Life – Although legislation concerning doctor-prescribed suicide or other end-of-life issues did not have much traction this session, the PCC did engage its advocacy network to urge the American Medical Association (AMA) to maintain its decades-long opposition to doctor-prescribed suicide. If the AMA weakens its opposition, the move will send a message to the legislature that legalizing suicide is acceptable. It is not too late to send a message to the leaders of the AMA urging them to remain neutral on the issue of doctor-prescribed suicide. Connect to the Catholic Advocacy Network at to send an email.

Much work has been done with work groups behind the scenes on the issue of Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). Draft legislation has already been submitted to the State Joint Government Commission Subcommittee on Powers of Attorney and the Legislative Reference Bureau in preparation for its introduction next session.

Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) & Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) – The legislative session ended with strong public statements by Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), urging a significant increase in the EITC and OSTC programs next year. He announced this at several press conferences at Catholic schools in different parts of the state. Rep. Turzai has set this as a priority for the next session.

Statutes of Limitation Reform – House Bill 1947 was a proposal to reform the statutes of limitation for childhood sexual abuse The House of Representatives voted for legislation that would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations in the future, extend the civil SoL for future cases and give an equal opportunity for victims in public institutions to bring suit (sovereign immunity prohibits these victims from suing now). The bill would also retroactively nullify the civil statute of limitations for past childhood sexual abuse cases from decades ago. In June the state Senate voted 49-0 in favor of an amended version of House Bill 1947 that removed the controversial retroactive provision, citing conflicts with Pennsylvania’s state constitution as the reason for the change. The Senate version maintained prospective changes to the law. The House Rules Committee did not act on the Senate-amended version of the bill; therefore it simply died at the end of the session.

Leaders of those pushing for the legislation stated publically that they are unwilling to accept any bill that does not include retroactivity. While the session comes to an end, no retroactive window was enacted; but it is anticipated that the proposal will be introduced again in the next session. The fight for fair statute of limitations reform is far from over.

Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Legislation – Legislation that would add “gender identity or expression” and “sexual orientation” to Pennsylvania’s non-discrimination law was again debated this session. Changing the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) will jeopardize many churches and their charitable outreach if they continue to adhere to their religious beliefs.  In other states, this law has closed Catholic adoption agencies and violated religious liberty. These bills could mean that Catholic agencies would no longer be able to make our contributions to the common good of Pennsylvania without violating our religious beliefs.

One bill passed in the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, but no further action was taken so the legislation died at the end of the session. This potential threat to religious liberty will need to be addressed in the new session.

Cardinal Dolan Calls For Renewed Fight Against Doctor-Assisted Suicide

DolanSeven jurisdictions in the United States have now opened the legal door to this dangerous abuse of medicine, an alarming trend that must be stopped for the sake of human dignity and the sacredness of life.
In Colorado, Proposition 106 legalized the ability of a doctor to write prescriptions for the sole purpose of killing another human being, and the ability of insurance companies to refuse treatment of patients they consider terminal. The DC law is the most expansive and dangerous so far. It goes beyond assisted suicide by allowing third parties to administer the lethal drugs opening the door even further to coercion and abuse.
Every suicide is tragic, whether someone is young or old, healthy or sick. But the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide creates two classes of people: those whose suicides are to be prevented at any cost, and those whose suicides are deemed a positive good. We remove weapons and drugs that can cause harm to one group, while handing deadly drugs to the other, setting up yet another kind of life-threatening discrimination. This is completely unjust. Our inherent human dignity does not wane with the onset of illness or incapacity, and so all are worthy of protection.
The act of prescribing a fatal, poisonous dose, moreover, undermines the very heart of medicine. Doctors vow to do no harm, and yet assisted suicide is the ultimate abandonment of their patients.
What seriously ill – and often depressed — patients need is authentic support, including doctors fully committed to their welfare and pain management as they enter their final days. Patients need our assurance that they are not a burden — that it is a privilege to care for them as we ourselves hope to be cared for one day. A compassionate society devotes more attention, not less, to members facing the most vulnerable times in their lives.
So doctor-assisted suicide must now be opposed with renewed vigor. Catholics must join medical professionals, disability rights groups, and other concerned citizens in fighting for the authentic care of those facing terminal illness.
-A statement from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York Chairman,  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities

The right place to start

“[To] ‘make America great again’ we also need a comprehensive immigration reform that protects our borders and at the same time allows a path to citizenship for the millions who already live among us. If we need ‘walls,’ we need walls with ‘doors’ because some of our ‘greatest Americans’ have been immigrants or refugees … we won’t make America great again by making America mean.”

— Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, November 14

Where to begin.

This is a column impossible to imagine just 10 days ago. Despite raising and spending vastly more money than Donald Trump, despite celebrity endorsements, despite the predictions of experts and pollsters, despite the vigorous support of a sitting president, and despite the thinly disguised loathing of her rival by much of the mass media, Hillary Clinton is not the president-elect. Donald Trump is.

Whatever else can be said about the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump’s message clearly connected with massive numbers of ordinary Americans, and he won an open election fairly. He cannot be dismissed as a fluke. He deserves our prayers and an opportunity to serve the nation well without being deliberately undermined by his critics.

As others have already noted, Mr. Trump is a pragmatist. After eight years of an ideologically zealous White House, that could be a good thing. But words and actions have consequences. The trademark Trump bluster on the campaign trail further divided a fractured nation and frightened millions of immigrants and members of ethnic and racial minorities. Media hostile to Mr. Trump have clearly made the problem worse. But the main author of the current ugliness is Trump himself. And only he can fix it with responsible language and behavior, and a willingness to listen to those who feel threatened by his victory.

Ensuring public safety, the solvency of our public institutions and the nation’s border security in an age of narco-syndicates and terrorism — Mr. Trump has voiced all these concerns, and they’re all legitimate goals. But the vast majority of undocumented persons in the United States are decent people. They pose no threat to anyone. They want a fruitful life, they work for a living, they raise families, and their children born here are American citizens.

In other words, they’re a vital resource for the future of our country, not a tumor to be cut out of the body. Sweeping talk of building a border wall and deporting millions of people is not just impractical and wrong-headed. It’s also dangerous. It fuels anti-immigrant resentment. And it feeds the anxiety now creating turmoil in immigrant and minority communities.

Over the past week I’ve heard from dozens of laypeople and pastors in our Latino and other minority communities. Many spoke of sleepless nights and “great concern and fear” among their people. Another wrote that his “community was very upset, and feeling numb and hopeless.” Another, who lives in Center City, said that someone threatened his foreign-born wife on the street and warned her to go back where she came from. These are not invented stories. They involve real people and real suffering.

Continue reading at 

Employment Opportunity: Social Concerns Director

PCC Logo Blue BackgroundThe Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) is seeking a seasoned government relations professional to advocate the Catholic perspective on social concerns issues at the State Capitol in Harrisburg and beyond. He/she will have a specific focus on lobbying for issues related to human services, respect for human life, and social justice.

A successful candidate should have bachelor’s degree or equivalent in political science, public administration, communications, or liberal arts. Master’s degree is desirable. Experience and familiarity with the workings of state government is essential.

He/she must be a practicing Catholic in good standing who is intelligent, zealous, dedicated and committed to the interests of the Church, knowledgeable about and interested in Church affairs, and a creative and productive writer, researcher, and policy analyst.

He/she must have the ability and social skills to work with both individuals and groups, both inside and outside the Church and convey the Church’s teachings, especially as they apply to elected and appointed government officials.

This full-time position is office-based at PCC’s location in downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Send cover letter and resume by December 21, 2016, to: PA Catholic Conference, PO Box 2835, Harrisburg, PA 17105 or send electronically to