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Catholic Health Care, the Poor & the State Budget

June is budget season at the state Capitol. Lawmakers have a constitutional deadline of June 30 to pass a spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) and the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association (PCHA) track many elements of the budget debate, especially those line items that assist the poor.

The Catholic health care ministry has a long history of providing health care services to the Commonwealth’s citizens, in particular, to the poor, the frail elderly and the marginalized. With such a mission, PCHA’s member hospitals and nursing homes care for a high percentage of Medical Assistance qualified patients. However, inadequate medical assistance reimbursement over the past several years as contributed to crippling financial burdens on health care providers.

Read more about PCHA’s milestone anniversary – 50 Years of Serving.

House Bill 1437, the budget blueprint recently passed by the Pennsylvania House, maintains medical assistance payments for hospitals, trauma centers and others at current-year levels and add-on payments for nursing facilities that have a high level of MA residents.

Sufficient dollars are necessary to ensure continued access to high quality services for vulnerable individuals in our communities, and guarantee that health care for those with the greatest need is not curtailed or eliminated.

Send a message to your state lawmakers urging them to support our most vulnerable citizens in our communities today.

Support a Fair Farm Bill

Urge your Representative to oppose drastic cuts to hunger programs and to support hungry people, promote stewardship of creation, assist small family farmers, and help rural America thrive!

Contact your Representatives today and urge them to prioritize

• Domestic Hunger and Nutrition: The House bill includes over $20 billion in cuts to SNAP. These cuts should be rejected as should provisions banning certain groups of people from SNAP (food stamps). With continued high unemployment, Congress should support access to adequate and nutritious food for those in need and oppose attempts to weaken or restructure programs such as SNAP.

• International Food Security and Development: The Food for Peace program saves people’s lives in times of dire emergencies and combats chronic hunger in poor communities around the world. Support the Royce-Engel Amendment, and any other Food for Peace reforms that give aid workers more flexibility to employ interventions best suited to local conditions and replace monetization, and oppose any amendments that cut funding for the program.

• Farm Subsidies: It is important to continue reasonable support for our commodity and dairy farmers; however, given current high commodity prices and federal budget constraints, agricultural subsidies and direct payments can be reduced overall and targeted to small and moderate-sized farms, especially minority owned-farms. The House should support a cap on subsidies for crop insurance premiums to benefit small to medium-sized farmers over wealthier and larger producers. Government resources should assist those who truly need assistance and support those who comply with environmentally sound and sustainable farming practices.

• Conservation and Stewardship: Support full funding for conservation initiatives that promote stewardship of the land and environmentally sound agriculture practices. These programs provide technical assistance and financial incentives for farmers and ranchers to adopt practices aimed at fostering healthy, productive and non-eroding soils, clean air and water, energy savings and wildlife habitats.

• Rural Development: Rural communities and small towns are the backbone of the social and economic life of America. Effective policies and programs are needed to encourage rural development and promote the culture and well-being of these communities.

Click here to send a message today!

Senate Urged To Improve And Approve Immigration Reform Legislation

WASHINGTON— As the U.S. Senate begins debate on immigration reform legislation this week, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, urged Congress to approve S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, which would reform the nation’s immigration system.

Archbishop Gomez made his statement at a press conference June 10, in San Diego. He was joined by Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, board member of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC); and Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the USCCB Communications Committee.

“The outcome of this debate—and of the one to follow in the House of Representatives—will impact the future of our nation in the twenty-first century and beyond,” Archbishop Gomez said. “Each day in our parishes, social service programs, hospitals, and schools we witness the human consequences of a broken immigration system. Families are separated, migrant workers are exploited, and our fellow human beings die in the desert. Without positive change to our immigration laws, we cannot help our brothers and sisters.”

Bishop Soto highlighted the need for comprehensive immigration reform that provides an achievable and accessible path to citizenship that includes the maximum number of people and improves family reunification. “If the goal of immigration reform is to address the issue of irregular immigration for good in a humane manner, then all undocumented persons should be brought out of the shadows and placed into the new system,” Bishop Soto said. “Leaving a large group behind does not solve the problem and, in the future, could create new ones.”

In his statement, Bishop Wester opposed proposed floor amendments that would mandate additional border enforcement as a prerequisite to legalization and citizenship.

“Making the legalization program contingent upon border metrics that are practically impossible to achieve would effectively prevent the undocumented from ever becoming citizens, or even legal residents,” Bishop Wester said. “Such a step would render the immigration reform program useless and the bill not worth supporting.”

He also warned against accepting amendments that would reduce the number of persons eligible for citizenship. Among them would be making the path to citizenship more difficult by increasing the amount of fines or imposing difficult income requirements including the payment of back taxes.

Archbishop Gomez also stated that the Senate should not adopt amendments relating to the redefinition of marriage, which would be unacceptable and would jeopardize passage of the bill.

“I encourage our elected officials to move forward and debate immigration reform in a civil and respectful way. The U.S. Catholic bishops are committed to working with them to enact humane immigration reform legislation as soon as possible,” Archbishop Gomez said. “In the end, the outcome of this debate will not only affect our nation’s future—it will impact our soul.”

More information and full text of speeches can be found

Extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program

On June 12, Sr. Clare Christi Schiefer, President of the PA Catholic Health Association, wrote to members of the PA Senate in support of extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP):

“Pennsylvania’s children deserve to lead healthy, successful lives. Insurance coverage is essential for families to get appropriate and necessary health care for their children. During this time of economic downturn, it is more important than ever that Pennsylvania continues to offer health care insurance to children in need of coverage and care. The impact is plain and simple – having insurance improves health outcomes of children. Furthermore, children who have health insurance generally have a relationship with a primary care physician. And, families with coverage are less likely to use costly emergency room services for common childhood ailments. Health care coverage is strongly linked to academic success as well.

It is important not to reverse the progress that Pennsylvania has made through state and federal partnerships for children’s health insurance. Therefore, PCHA and PCC urge you to support the reauthorization of CHIP through 2015, as provided by House Bill 108 to ensure that Pennsylvania’s children will have access to health care coverage through this critical safety-net program.”

Read Sr. Clare’s entire letter on the CHIP extension.



Fortnight for Freedom in Pennsylvania

libertybellThe U.S. bishops have called for a Fortnight for Freedom, a two-week period of prayer and action, to address many current challenges to religious liberty, including the August 1, 2013, deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS contraceptive mandate, Supreme Court rulings that could attempt to redefine marriage in June, and religious liberty concerns in areas such as immigration and humanitarian services.

You can send a message in support of religious liberty to your elected officials by clicking here.

Here is an overview of events happening across the state. Please click on the links for more events and information:

In observance of the Fortnight for Freedom, Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown will preside at a Holy Hour on July 1 at 7:00 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Altoona. The Holy Hour will include Evening Prayer, a homily, and Eucharistic Adoration.

In the Diocese of Allentown is hosting several events to mark the Fortnight for Freedom, including a viewing of the film about St. Thomas More, “A Man for All Seasons,” forums and Mass, and ringing of church bells on July 4.

In the Diocese of Erie, St. Thomas More House of Prayer, Cranberry, will hold all-night adoration, beginning Thursday, June 27 at 8:30 p.m. and ends Friday at 3 p.m. with benediction. The house will hold an outdoor showing of “A Man for All Seasons” on Friday at 8 p.m. on June 21. Also, St. Michael Parish, Fryburg is offering the Liturgy of the Hours on July 3. More information will be available here.

The Fortnight will begin in the Diocese of Greensburg with an Ecumenical Prayer Service for Religious Freedom led by Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt June 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, Greensburg.  Bishop Brandt will be joined by priests of the diocese and ministers of other denominations.

In the Diocese of Harrisburg, St. John the Baptist Parish, New Freedom, will host an event entitled “Field of Flags,” during which participants will pray the living rosary, sing patriotic music and listen to speakers. Flags will be planted in support of religious liberty.

In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the faithful are encouraged to join together in prayer for religious liberty:

Prayer for Religious Liberty

Almighty God, Father of all nations, for freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).

We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty, the foundation of human rights, justice and the common good.

Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties.

By your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness, and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign,  one God, for ever and ever.


 “Women’s Freedom and Religious Freedom,” a talk featuring Dr. Faith Daggs and Helene Paharick, kicks off the Fortnight in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  Other events in the Pittsburgh area include a discussion of the redefinition of marriage and Mass with Bishop Zubik.

Bishop Bambera of the Diocese of Scranton has invited participation in two Fortnight events at Saint Peter’s Cathedral, Scranton. On Wednesday, June 26, at 12:10 p.m., he will host an Ecumenical Service of Prayer for Religious Freedom with representatives of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant denominations in attendance. On Sunday, June 30 at 12:15 p.m., he will celebrate a special Mass of Faith and Freedom.

Governor Signs Pro Life Bill

HB 818, passed in the House in April, clearly prohibits the taxpayer supported insurance plans created under the federal health care exchange from covering elective abortions. On Tuesday, June 4, the Senate considered amendments that would have significantly weakened HB 818 and defeated them. HB 818 was passed by the full Senate on Wednesday, June 5 by a vote of 31 to 19. That vote is also reflected below. Governor Corbett signed the bill into law on June 17.

“The Senate took a stand in support of the dignity of human life. I applaud the efforts of the sponsors of this legislation, Representative Oberlander and Senator White. I also appreciate the senators who voted across party lines in support of life, namely Senators Kasunic and Solobay,” said Dr. Robert J. O’Hara, Executive Director of the PA Catholic Conference.

Votes against these weakening amendments were a courageous stand for the pro-life cause. Please look below to see if your Senator voted “no” on the weakening amendments. If he or she did, please send a note of thanks by clicking here. If your Senator voted “yes” on the weakening amendments, thus undermining the intent of the bill, please click here to ask them to cast pro-life votes in the future!

Allentown Diocese

On Schwank AmendmentOn Vance AmendmentOn Final Passage
Argall, David G. (R- Schuylkill)NoNoYes
Boscola, Lisa M. (D- Northampton)YesYesNo
Browne, Patrick M.  (R- Lehigh)NoNoYes
Folmer, Mike (R- Lebanon)NoNoYes
Mensch, Bob (R- Montgomery)NoYesYes
Rafferty, John C. (R- Chester)NoNoYes
Schwank, Judith L. (D- Berks)YesYesNo
Yudichak, John T. (D- Luzerne)YesNoYes

Altoona- Johnstown Diocese

On Schwank AmendmentOn Vance AmendmentOn Final Passage
Corman, Jake (R- Centre)NoNoYes
Eichelberger, John H. (R- Blair)NoNoYes
Kasunic, Richard A. (D- Fayette)NoNoYes
Wozniak, John N. (D- Cambria)YesYesYes


Erie Diocese

On Schwank AmendmentOn Vance AmendmentOn Final Passage
Hutchinson, Scott  (R- Venango)NoNoYes
Robbins, Robert D. (R- Mercer)NoNoYes
Scarnati, Joseph B. (R- Jefferson)NoNoYes
White, Donald C. (R- Indiana)NoNoYes
Wiley, Sean  (D- Erie)YesYesNo
Wozniak, John N. (D- Cambria)YesYesYes


Greensburg Diocese

On Schwank AmendmentOn Vance AmendmentOn Final Passage
Brewster, James R. (D- Allegheny)YesYesYes
Ferlo, Jim (D- Allegheny)YesYesNo
Kasunic, Richard A. (D- Fayette)NoNoYes
Solobay, Timothy J. (D- Washington)NoNoYes
Ward, Kim L. (R- Westmoreland)NoNoYes
White, Donald C. (R- Indiana)NoNoYes


Harrisburg Diocese

On Schwank AmendmentOn Vance AmendmentOn Final Passage
Alloway, Richard L. (R- Franklin) NoNoYes
Brubaker, Mike (R- Lancaster) NoNoYes
Corman, Jake  (R- Centre)NoNoYes
Eichelberger, John H. (R- Blair)NoNoYes
Folmer, Mike (R- Lebanon)NoNoYes
Gordner, John R. (R- Columbia)NoNoYes
Smucker, Lloyd K. (R- Lancaster) NoNoYes
Teplitz, Rob (D- Dauphin)YesYesNo
Vance, Patricia H. (R- Cumberland)YesYesNo
Waugh, Michael L. (R- York) NoNoYes
Yaw, Gene (R- Lycoming) NoYesYes


Philadelphia Archdiocese

On Schwank AmendmentOn Vance AmendmentOn Final Passage
Brubaker, Mike (R- Northampton) NoNoYes
Dinniman, Andrew E. (D- Chester)YesYesNo
Erickson, Edwin B. (R- Delaware)NoNoYes
Farnese, Lawrence M. (D- Philadelphia)YesYesNo
Folmer, Mike (R- Lebanon) NoNoYes
Greenleaf, Stewart J. (R- Montgomery)NoNoYes
Hughes, Vincent J. (D- Philadelphia)YesYesNo
Kitchen, Shirley M. (D- Philadelphia) YesYesNo
Leach, Daylin (D- Montgomery)YesNoNo
McIlhinney, Charles T. (R- Bucks) YesYesYes
Mensch, Bob (R- Montgomery)NoYesYes
Pileggi, Dominic (R- Delaware) NoNoYes
Rafferty, John C. (R- Chester)NoNoYes
Stack, Michael J. (D- Philadelphia) YesYesNo
Tartaglione, Christine M. (D- Philadelphia)YesYesNo
Tomlinson, Robert M. (R- Bucks)NoNoYes
Washington, LeAnna M. (D- Philadelphia) YesYesNo
Williams, Anthony H. (D- Philadelphia)YesYesNo


Pittsburgh Diocese

On Schwank AmendmentOn Vance AmendmentOn Final Passage
Brewster, James R. (D- Allegheny)YesYesYes
Costa, Jay (D- Allegheny)YesYesNo
Ferlo, Jim (D- Allegheny)YesYesNo
Fontana, Wayne D. (D- Allegheny)YesYesNo
Hutchinson, Scott (R- Venango)NoNoYes
Kasunic, Richard A. (D- Fayette)NoNoYes
Robbins, Robert D. (R- Mercer)NoNoYes
Smith, Matt (D- Allegheny)YesYesNo
Solobay, Timothy J. (D- Washington)NoNoYes
Vogel, Elder A. (R- Beaver)NoNoYes
Vulakovich, Randy (R- Allegheny)NoNoYes
White, Donald C. (R- Indiana)NoNoYes


Scranton Diocese

On Schwank AmendmentOn Vance AmendmentOn Final Passage
Argall, David G. (R- Schuylkill)NoNoYes
Baker, Lisa (R- Luzerne)YesYesNo
Blake, John P. (D- Lackawanna)YesNoYes
Boscola, Lisa M. (D- Northampton)YesYesNo
Browne, Patrick M.(R- Lehigh)NoNoYes
Gordner, John R. (R- Columbia)NoNoYes
Scarnati, Joseph (R-Tioga)NoNoYes
Gene Yaw (R- Lycoming)NoYesYes
John T. Yudichak (D- Luzerne)YesNoYes


PA House Education Committee Supports EITC Increase

eitcThe Pennsylvania House Education Committee voted in favor of  House Bill 1207 with a vote of 13-12. The bill, introduced by Representative Jim Christiana (R-Beaver), will increase funding for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program to $125 million for K-12 and $12.5 million for pre-kindergarten scholarships. This is an important first step for giving more students school choice.

The Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program helps more than 40,000 students each year to choose the school that best fits their needs.

The EITC program has provided school choice to students for 12 years and now the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program will be able to help thousands more who need help the most.

Students in every Catholic school in Pennsylvania benefit from these programs; but the demand for scholarships far exceeds the dollars available for tax credits.

Now until the end of June, the Pennsylvania General Assembly will be debating the 2013-2014 state budget. Send a message to your legislators and ask them to support HB 1207 and  increase funding for EITC and keep OSTC funding level so more students have the opportunity for school choice.

Use the Catholic Advocacy Network to send your message today.

USCCB Chair Applauds Passage Of Immigration Reform Bill Out Of Committee

From the USCCB —Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, today applauded approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, legislation which would reform the nation’s immigration system.

“This is an important step in the legislative process,” he said May 22, the day after the committee vote. “I applaud Chairman Patrick Leahy and the committee members for their efforts and strong bipartisan cooperation,” said Archbishop Gomez. The Senate panel considered over 150 amendments during the process.

Archbishop Gomez said that the bill should be taken up by the full Senate as soon as possible, and that amendments to improve upon the legislation should be adopted. In his remarks, he specifically mentioned the need for improvements to the path to citizenship and the family immigration provisions in the legislation.

“The path to citizenship should be widened, so that the maximum number of persons can access it and come out of the shadows,” he said. “To leave a large population behind would defeat the purpose of the bill, which is to bring persons into the light so they can become full members of our communities.” The USCCB has been working to shorten the amount of time an individual must wait to apply for permanent residency, to move forward the cut-off date for eligibility, and to ease income and work requirements.

Archbishop Gomez also expressed concern over cuts to the family-based immigration system, a hallmark of the nation’s immigration laws for decades.

“We must not abandon our focus on families, which are the backbone of our society,” he said. “Family unity, based on the union of a husband and a wife and their children, must remain the cornerstone of our nation’s immigration system.”

Archbishop Gomez welcomed several amendments added to the legislation helping immigrant children. He also commended the Senators for turning back efforts to strike provisions assisting asylum-seekers and refugees.

It is expected that the full U.S. Senate will consider the legislation in June.

Click here to send a message to your legislator!

Abortionist Receives Life Imprisonment for His Crimes

From a May 22 article from The Westfield Free Press in Tioga County, “Gruesome as it is, hopefully the story of Baby Boy A is one that won’t be soon forgotten or ignored. Hopefully, because of him and the others like him who spent a few brief moments in Gosnell’s clinic, caring individuals will take action to ensure that other infants like him will have a chance to survive.”

The article also explains legislation that was introduced by Rep. Matt Baker in response to the Gosnell “house of horrors.” PCC supported that legislation, which holds abortion clinic to the same health and safety standards as other ambulatory surgical facilities, and it became law last year.

Read the entire article here, “Abortion doc gets life for murder.”