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Visiting Legislators: “We have government by the majority who participate”

websitetoolkitimageCatholic advocates in Pennsylvania have been growing in number and becoming agents for change in laws that respect life, support Catholic education, uphold religious liberty and more.

As Catholics we have a moral obligation to get involved with the public debate. When we fulfill this civic duty together, we can make the “the weight of (our) convictions so influential that, as a result, the exercise of civil authority will be just and laws will accord with the moral precepts and the common good” (Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, 14).

Also, it’s important for legislators to learn about the Catholic presence in their communities and how it benefits all of their constituents, regardless of creed.

So, if you too are convinced that civic engagement is important- even an obligation – how do we go about contacting our legislators?  The most simple and easy way is to send a message through the Pennsylvania Catholic Advocacy Network.  This network is especially useful if a bill is moving through the legislature and you need to get in touch right away.

Sometimes, though, issues are so important that they warrant an in-person visit. Studies show that in-person visits from constituents have the most impact on legislators and their staff – more than emails, phone calls and letters.

To help you navigate the in-person visit, we’ve produced this Advocacy Toolkit which walks you through setting up, attending and following up on an in-person visit with your legislator.  Give it a read and set up your visit today.

And if you still aren’t convinced you should make a visit, remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, “We in America do not have a government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”

Read the Advocacy Toolkit today!

“Yes” on HB 818 Without Amendments: The Pro-Life Vote

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) specifically allows states to prohibit providers that participate in the insurance marketplace from covering elective abortions. To assure that elective abortion is not included in the federal exchange in Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth must affirmatively opt out by passing a state law. House Bill 818 – without amendments- will clearly prohibit the taxpayer supported insurance plans from covering elective abortions. HB 818 does not eliminate coverage of abortions in taxpayer supported plans in the cases of rape, incest or to avert the death of the mother.

Currently no tax dollars are used for elective abortions anywhere in Pennsylvania. Abortion coverage has long been prohibited in Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program (except in cases of rape, incest or to avert the death of the mother). HB 818 would guarantee that the taxpayer supported plans in the federal government’s new health insurance marketplace are in line with this long-standing policy.

Without clear statutory prohibitions, public dollars could be spent on a program which includes elective abortion coverage. Proposed amendments are being discussed in the state Senate which, if approved, would seriously undermine the intent of HB 818. These weakening amendments must not be added to the bill. For this reason, the PA Catholic Conference reiterates that the only authentic prolife vote on House Bill 818 is one which passes the bill without any amendments.

Taxpayers strongly oppose abortion coverage in the health insurance exchanges. In the heat of the health care reform debate, CNN found that six in 10 Americans favor a ban on the use of federal funds for abortion (November 2009). Quinnipiac University found that 67% of Americans oppose allowing abortions to be paid for by public funds under a health care reform bill (January 2010).

Pennsylvania has a long pro-life tradition. If these polls were conducted here today, the numbers of taxpayers opposing abortion coverage would be even higher. Over thirty states have either passed, introduced or plan to introduce opt-out legislation. Those that have passed such legislation into law include Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.

Voting “yes” on HB 818 without amendments is the only genuine pro-life vote.

Click here to send a message in support of HB 818 without amendment.

PCHA Receives Papal Blessing

PCHA-50th-Anniversary-Papal-BlessingwebThe Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association has received a blessing from Pope Francis to mark its 50th anniversary year.

It reads “His Holiness Francis cordially imparts the requested Apostolic Blessing to Sister Clare Christi Schiefer, OSF, President, and the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary.”

PCHA provides support for Pennsylvania’s Catholic healthcare community through advocacy, communication, education and united action; putting special emphasis on recognizing the needs of children, the elderly, the poor and the underserved. Please read more about PCHA here.

“I consider myself to be an ambassador for Christ in the public square,” says Sister Clare of her unique position as a nun who is also a lobbyist.  “Many times when I go to talk to a legislator we end up talking about more than just policy.  They often want to discuss other matters, ask my advice, and ask if I will say a prayer for them or their family.”

Reauthorize ESEA for Non-Public School Students

schoolcomputer3Currently, students and teachers in non-public schools are not receiving their fair share of funding from the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for Title I-A (tutoring services for academically struggling students), or for Title II-A (professional development opportunities for their teachers).

Only the long overdue re-authorization of ESEA can re-establish the full and fair non-public school share.

Congress enacted the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965 on the “child benefit” principle, which envisioned the needs of all eligible children being addressed regardless of where they attended school.  Throughout most of this 45 year history of multiple revisions and extensions to ESEA, Congress has not only preserved this approach but has strengthened and broadened its application.  As a matter of fundamental fairness, federal funds which are generated by the count of students in private schools should be used to benefit them and their teachers.

Click here to send a message in support of non-public school teachers and students.

Pro-Life Bill Passes Senate Committee

House Bill 818, which passed the full House in late April, was voted out of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee today by a vote of 9 to 5. View the committee vote here. The bill now proceeds to the full Senate for a vote.

Send a message to your senator in support of this commonsense pro-life measure by clicking here. 

House Bill 818 is the bill that would ensure taxpayers do not fund abortions through the federal health care exchange administered in PA. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) specifically permits states to prohibit insurance providers that participate in the marketplace from covering elective abortions. Therefore, to assure that elective abortion is not included in the federal marketplace to be implemented in Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth must affirmatively opt out by passing a state law. House Bill 818 clearly prohibits the taxpayer supported insurance plans from covering elective abortions.


Happy Birthday, EITC! 12 Years of School Choice Opportunities

IMG_6346smallThanks to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, more than 40,000 students each year are able to choose the school that best fits their needs. Students from around the Commonwealth were at the state Capitol today for the annual EITC birthday party and to thank legislators for their support of the program.

The EITC program has provided school choice to students for 12 years; but rally goers have another reason to celebrate this year – the first birthday of the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program.

Both EITC and OSTC programs are funded by companies that contribute to scholarship organizations in exchange for a tax credit. The longstanding EITC program has helped tens of thousands of students attend the school of their choice, including Catholic schools. The OSTC program helps thousands more by giving special scholarships particularly for income eligible students in the lowest performing 15% of public schools.

IMG_6355smallBusiness owners who want to participate may complete the simple, step-by-step EITC and OSTC applications online at the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) website,

Helpful links:


State Leaders React to Passing of Bishop McFadden

U.S Senator Robert Casey, Jr., said, “I worked with him closely through the years on a number of issues. He was a forceful advocate, an effective leader and a much beloved shepherd for the people of Harrisburg, Philadelphia and all of Pennsylvania. I join the Diocese of Harrisburg in mourning the passing of a good man.”

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey said, “Kris and I are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Bishop McFadden. A native of Philadelphia, the Bishop was called to serve, whether he was coaching basketball or ministering to many of us as the Tenth Bishop of Harrisburg. His love, caring, and spiritual guidance will be missed by all who benefited from his wisdom over the years.”

Governor Tom Corbett said, “During the past two years I had the pleasure and privilege of knowing and working with His Excellency, Bishop McFadden. He combined a scholar’s understanding of scripture with a compassion and understanding of the value of every human. He brought these qualities to bear in guiding the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, and in setting an example for all people of all faiths. Susan and I offer our sympathy to the bishop’s family and to the wider church family that mourn his passing and celebrate his life and ministry.”

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick wrote on his Facebook page, “I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Bishop Joseph McFadden this morning. Bishop McFadden, a Philadelphia native, served faithfully as the tenth bishop of the Harrisburg Diocese. My heartfelt prayers go out to his family and all of those who benefited from his wisdom and spiritual guidance.”

Congressman Scott Perry said, “The passing of Bishop Joseph McFadden is truly a sad moment for the Diocese of Harrisburg. Bishop McFadden was a true servant of God and, because of his deep devotion to his faith and others, countless Pennsylvanians were positively impacted by his service. His work in the Diocese of Harrisburg will be remembered for generations, and I will remember him for his lifelong love and devotion to all of the residents of Pennsylvania.”

Senator Joe Scarnati, President Pro Tempore of the PA Senate wrote on Twitter that he was, “saddened by the passing of Bishop McFadden of Harrisburg Diocese – He will be remembered as a Great Leader & Strong Man of Faith”

Senator Jake Corman tweeted, “My condolences to the Harrisburg Diocese on the passing of Bishop McFadden”

State Senator Rob Teplitz posted on Twitter, “My sincerest condolences to the Catholic community on the sudden passing of Bishop McFadden.”

Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick III said, “He was truly a people person…He never spoke down to anybody. He was full of life. He had a passion for service.”

Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said, “He was a good man for our diocese… He was very big on Catholic education and was doing great things in that regard.”

 Funeral arrangements are available here.

Bishop McFadden: Tireless Advocate in the Public Square

McFaddenInstallationBishop Joseph McFadden passed away on May 2, 2013, after three years of service as the president of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. The conference is the public policy agency of Pennsylvania’s bishops.

“Bishop McFadden had all of the attributes that make an effective leader in public policy, including his willingness to engage with legislators and his ease around all people. He did not shy away from spirited discussion,” said PCC Executive Director Dr. Robert. J. O’Hara.

Bishop McFadden guided the PCC’s work during his time here, with particular focus on legislation that upholds the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death, supports Catholic education, safeguards religious liberty and protects the poor and vulnerable.

Notable successes included the expansion of the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program and the creation of the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program. About school choice, Bishop McFadden said, “When we look across the education landscape in Pennsylvania…we see that some parents, especially low-income families, have no choice but to send their children to a school that is not helping them reach their potential. This is why the bishops of Pennsylvania see school choice as a defining social justice issue for our time.” Education was particularly important to Bishop McFadden as he served as the Chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Committee on Catholic Education.

“Bishop McFadden did not impose Catholic teaching on the legislators and legislative staff he worked with. He willingly engaged them in matters of public policy, and that helped to advance so many of the issues that impact Catholics,” said O’Hara. In addition to the EITC and OSTC programs, he also worked to pass legislation that held abortion clinics to the same standards as other ambulatory surgical facilities, increased support for alternatives to abortion programs and championed services that support the poor.

During the budget debate last year, when line items supporting Pennsylvania’s most needy people were being discussed, Bishop McFadden wrote “…we do not always give the poor in our community the attention they deserve…The human impact of the state budget debate in Harrisburg often is overlooked. Particularly troubling is the potential loss of funding for long-supported programs that help those in dire need and provide a sound, reasonable safety net for our citizens.”

He was also a champion for religious liberty. During last year’s Fortnight for Freedom, Bishop McFadden led an online daily video Novena; the prayer sessions included a special daily reflection on the importance of religious liberty. He was particularly skilled at using new media to communicate, hosting video chats with school students and engaging in conversations on Facebook and Twitter.

Bishop McFadden also kept before him at all times the Eucharist and the person of Christ. “I can remember after one particularly long day, Bishop McFadden said to me ‘We don’t have to save the world, Bob. Jesus has already done that for us, and we simply have to follow him.’ Seeing our efforts, which bump up against politics regularly, in that eternal and Christ-centered way, has kept us focused in our work,” said O’Hara.

Funeral arrangements are available here.

Death of Bishop McFadden

bishop mcfadden at installation
From the Diocese of Harrisburg –

It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the death of Bishop Joseph P. McFadden.  He died unexpectedly while attending a meeting of the Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania being held in Philadelphia.

While staying at a rectory he awoke feeling ill and was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead at approximately 7:40 a.m. A cause of death has not yet been announced.

The governance of the Diocese of Harrisburg passed to the College of Consultors upon his death. They will have eight days to elect an Administrator who will be in charge of the day to day operation of the Diocese until a new Bishop is appointed by the Holy Father.

Bishop McFadden was the tenth Bishop of Harrisburg. He was appointed on June 22, 2010 by then Pope Benedict XVI. He was installed as Bishop of Harrisburg on August 18, 2010 in St. Patrick Cathedral, Harrisburg.

Biographical Information

Joseph P. McFadden was born in Philadelphia on May 22, 1947, the son of Thomas and Ellen (Griffin) McFadden. He lived with his parents and brother, John, and his two sisters, Jane and Ellen, in West Philadelphia and was baptized at Saint Rose of Lima Parish. He attended Our Lady of Lourdes elementary school from 1953-1961. He attended Saint Thomas More High School for Boys from 1961 to 1965. While in high school, he was a member of the Student Council, the Newspaper, the J.V. and Varsity Basketball teams and a member of the National Honor Society. He was also the Class Valedictorian. Following high school, he matriculated to Saint Joseph University majoring in Political Science. He graduated in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Politics. While at St. Joseph, he played on the Freshmen Basketball Team and then embarked on a career of coaching basketball during his remaining years in college, first as the Freshman Coach at St. Thomas More High School and then as the Junior Varsity Coach at West Catholic High School for Boys.

On graduating from Saint Joseph University, Bishop McFadden was hired to teach at West Catholic Boys High School. While teaching, he also coached the J. V. Baseball Team, the J.V. and Varsity Basketball Teams becoming the Head Coach in 1973 and was Moderator of the Student Council. In 1972 he was appointed the Director of Athletics for West Catholic and served on the Board of Directors for the Philadelphia Catholic League.

In 1976 Bishop McFadden entered Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary to study for the priesthood and was ordained a Deacon in 1980 and assigned to Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Secane. On May 16, 1981 he was ordained a Priest in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul by His Eminence John Cardinal Krol. Bishop McFadden received a Master of Divinity Degree on completion of his studies at Saint Charles Seminary graduating Summa Cum Laude.

In June of 1981, he was assigned the Parochial Vicar at St. Laurence Parish, Highland Park. In 1982 he was appointed Administrative Secretary to Cardinal Krol and held that position from 1982 to 1993. On May 29, 1991, he was named an Honorary Prelate to His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, with the title of Monsignor.

In 1993, Bishop McFadden was named by Cardinal Bevilacqua to be the first President of Cardinal O’Hara High School, Springfield, PA. During his tenure as President, the school’s enrollment increased from 1540 students to 2000 students and he helped to initiate the innovative computer “Laptops for Learning” program in the school.

In 2001, Bishop McFadden was appointed Pastor of St Joseph Parish, Downingtown, where he ministered until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia in June 2004. Bishop McFadden was ordained to the Episcopacy by Cardinal Justin Rigali in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul on July 28, 2004.

On June 22, 2010 Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop McFadden the Tenth Bishop of Harrisburg. He was installed in St. Patrick Cathedral on August 18, 2010. On that date, he began his ministry as Bishop of Harrisburg.

More information will be sent as it becomes available. A special section dedicated to this information for the Diocesan website is anticipated.

Please pray for the soul of Bishop Joseph McFadden.