Hot Issues

Meet Unmet Demand for Pre-School Assistance


Children benefit greatly from programs that develop learning skills before they reach kindergarten age. Most children in Pennsylvania now receive their pre-kindergarten education in successful nonpublic programs. Some of those children’s families are helped to some extent by the laudable Pre-K Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, but the unmet demand for scholarship assistance under that program is extraordinarily high.

State Representatives Thomas Quigley (R-Montgomery) and Jim Christiana (R-Beaver, Washington) are seeking cosponsors HB 1442, which would give even more children a better chance for success in school and in life. Their proposal would create a state-funded program that allows eligible families to apply for and receive grants to meet the costs of their children’s attendance at safe, caring and effective public or nonpublic pre-school programs.

UPDATE: Senator Scott Hutchinson (R-Butler, Clarion, Forest, Venango and Warren Counties) is seeking co-sponsors for similar pre-school assistance legislation in the State Senate.

Send a message to your state lawmakers to urge them to sign on as co-sponsor of HB 1442 or the companion Senate bill for Pre-School Education Grants.

Archbishop Chaput: There is no equivalence

Photo by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness

Photo by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness

On August 10, 2015, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. CAP. explained why other moral issues are not equivalent to abortion in his column on Here is an excerpt:

Here’s a simple exercise in basic reasoning. On a spectrum of bad things to do, theft is bad, assault is worse and murder is worst. There’s a similar texture of ill will connecting all three crimes, but only a very confused conscience would equate thieving and homicide. Both are serious matters. But there is no equivalence.

The deliberate killing of innocent life is a uniquely wicked act. No amount of contextualizing or deflecting our attention to other issues can obscure that.

This is precisely why Cardinal John O’Connor, Bishop James McHugh and others pressed so hard for the passage of the U.S. bishops’ 1998 pastoral letter, Living the Gospel of Life. As Cardinal Joseph Bernardin once wisely noted, Catholic social teaching is a seamless garment of respect for human life, from conception to natural death. It makes no sense to champion the cause of unborn children if we ignore their basic needs once they’re born.

Thus it’s no surprise that — year in and year out — nearly all Catholic dioceses in the United States, including Philadelphia, devote far more time, personnel and material resources to providing social services to the poor and education to young people than to opposing abortion.

But of course, children need to survive the womb before they can have needs like food, shelter, immigration counseling and good health care. Humanity’s priority right — the one that undergirds all other rights — is the right to life.

Read the rest of the Archbishop’s column here.

Show Your Support for the Successful EITC and OSTC Programs

StudentSmileBoth the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs are funded by companies that contribute to our scholarship organizations in exchange for a tax credit. The longstanding EITC program has helped countless students attend our Catholic schools every year.

EITC tax credits are often depleted on the first day of their availability. OSTC credits are also exhausted. The waiting list we have for scholarships is long. The need for more credits, to help more parents pick the best school for their children, is evident.

Our state elected officials are still negotiating the budget, and the EITC and OSTC are likely part of the bargain. We need to give them a strong show of support so they will remember to represent the hundreds of parents in their districts who want what’s best for their child’s educational needs.

Please ask your legislator to vote in favor of House Bill 752, which would increase EITC and OSTC tax credits. HB 752 passed the House on May 11, and now it is time for the Senate to vote for it, so that even more parents can make a choice about the right school for their children.

Click here to send an email message to your state lawmakers today. Our students depend on it!

Review of Planned Parenthood in PA Promised

PA_coat_of_armsGovernor Tom Wolf told listeners of KQV-AM radio in Pittsburgh last week that he will take steps to reaffirm that human fetal tissue is not being sold commercially in Pennsylvania. Wolf says he doesn’t think it’s happening in Pennsylvania. According to the report, the Department of Health says it hasn’t received a complaint about it and Planned Parenthood (the nation’s and state’s largest abortion provider) says its Pennsylvania health centers don’t participate in fetal tissue donation. He did not say what steps he planned for undertaking a review.

The question stemmed from outrage sparked by two recently released videos of high level Planned Parenthood directors who were shown graphically explaining how abortions can be conducted in a way which preserves the baby’s organs for medical research as well as the costs associated with selling these organs.

State legislative leaders, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R- Cameron, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, Mckean, Potter and Tioga) and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) have also urged Attorney General Kathleen Kane to investigate Planned Parenthood practices in Pennsylvania. Further, The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee announced that it will investigate Planned Parenthood as a result of this video.

Planned Parenthood provides over half of the abortions in Pennsylvania. Advocates must strongly urge elected officials in Harrisburg and Washington, DC, to take these investigations seriously. Send a message to your elected officials today.

Measure to Protect Women and Children Signed Into Law

doctorAmong the many atrocities revealed at Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s “House of Horrors” abortion clinic in West Philadelphia was that several of his staff provided medical services without the proper training or license to do so. Consequently, a woman died and seven newborn babies were killed by infanticide in Dr. Gosnell’s abortion clinic. He is now serving three consecutive life sentences in prison for his role in the deaths.

Senate Bill 485, passed by both chambers of the General Assembly, will increase the penalty for those who commit the crime of impersonating a doctor of medicine. State Senator Joseph B. Scarnati III, (R- Cameron, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, Mckean, Potter and Tioga), Senate Pro Tempore and prime sponsor of the senate bill, called this an important piece of legislation because “impersonating a physician can have dire consequences for individuals who unknowingly place their healthcare in the hands of someone who is not properly trained or experienced.” State Representative Matt Baker (R-Bradford, Tioga), sponsor of a similar measure in the House, said, “Those in the medical profession are generally highly respected and trusted individuals whom people seek out when they are sick, vulnerable and looking for help. It is unconscionable that a person, for whatever reason, would pretend to be a doctor.”

The legislation was signed into law Governor Tom Wolf in July 2015 and is now in effect.

Investigate Planned Parenthood

ultrasound2015A video was released last week that shows Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services, graphically explaining how abortions can be conducted in a way which preserves the baby’s organs for medical research as well as the costs associated with selling these organs. A second video was released this week showing Mary Gatter, who is president of the group’s medical director council discussing the same thing.

It is a felony under federal law to sell the body parts of aborted babies. Planned Parenthood has denied that they profit from the harvesting of organs; rather, they claim the organs are donated for scientific research and that the money discussed is to reimburse for associated costs.

With a warning of its graphic nature, here is a link to the video, entitled, “Planned Parenthood Uses Partial-Birth Abortions to Sell Baby Parts.” A full version of the video can be viewed here.

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee announced that it will investigate Planned Parenthood as a result of this video.  Planned Parenthood provides over half of the abortions in Pennsylvania, and the state should initiate its own investigation.

Send a message today asking your elected officials to investigate Planned Parenthood.

Reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act


UPDATE: On July 16, 2015, the U.S. Senate approved the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) with a vote of 81 to 17. Similar to HR 5 which recently passed in the House, the Senate measure reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and replaces the No Child Left Behind Act.  Both chambers will participate in a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two bills and send the compromise to the president’s desk.

From the USCCB- HR5 is the House of Representatives version of the long overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).   Since its inception in 1965, ESEA has long upheld the principle that students in need, regardless of whether they attend a public or private school, are entitled to an equitable share of services and benefits. However, following the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001 (the last ESEA reauthorization), this principle has been continually eroded with private school students and their teachers no longer receiving the equitable share of services and benefits to which they are entitled and that Congress intended.

The Student Success Act (H.R.5) is the first step towards restoring equity and strengthening the historical safeguards designed to insure the fair and equitable treatment of private school students and their teachers. The House plans to vote on The Student Success Act on Wednesday, July 8th.

As the U.S. Bishops reiterated in their 2005 statement Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, “government at all levels, acting in partnership with parents, has a responsibility to provide adequate professional and material resources to assist all children to attain a quality education.” The Student Success Act’s provisions related to improving access to services to teachers and students in need, regardless of where they attend school, makes a substantial contribution to putting the needs of students and their families first.

For more information, see the letter  by Archbishop George Lucas, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Committee on Catholic Education regarding the Student Success Act.

E-mail or Call Your Representative and tell them:

  • Please support the re-authorization of ESEA.   Passage of The Student Success Act will be the first step towards correcting the inequities of No Child Left Behind including the improvement of the consultation requirements and other conditions connected with providing equitable services for students and teachers in religious, private and independent schools.
  • As the U.S. Bishops reiterated in their 2005 statement Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, “government at all levels, acting in partnership with parents, has a responsibility to provide adequate professional and material resources to assist all children to attain a quality education.”
  • The Student Success Act’s provisions related to improving access to services to students in need and their teachers, regardless of where they attend school, makes a substantial contribution to putting the needs of students and their families first.

Thank you for your advocacy on behalf of Catholic Education!

Catholic Social Services Salute Our Veterans

St. Francis Commons Flag RaisingAs Pennsylvanians prepare for the picnics and fireworks displays of the Fourth of July, our thoughts often turn to the veterans who have defended our country throughout the years.

Civilians may not be fully aware of the struggles that veterans face after their tour of duty.  According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the national unemployment rate for veterans is over seven percent. Many struggle with alcohol and drug addiction and others need help reconnecting with their families.

Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton opened St. Hedwig’s Veterans Village in Luzerne County to help meet the needs of these members of their community.

St. Hedwig’s Village is made up of 10 one-bedroom and 2 two-bedroom apartments designed for veterans and their families.  A full range of supportive services is provided, including counseling, job search assistance, educational opportunities and more.

Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton also provides residence for 30 more veterans at St. Francis Commons in Scranton.  In conjunction with the Veterans Administration, Catholic Social Services provides drug and alcohol treatment, job training, case management and counseling.

St. Francis Commons consists of 30 rooms with private baths, community dining rooms and kitchens, laundry rooms and TV lounges.  The men and women may live at St. Francis Commons for two years, during which time they can heal, work and reconnect with their families.

Monsingor Joseph Kelly, Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Human Services, said, “In the year since its opening, St. Francis Commons has seen a significant change in the veterans we are privileged to serve.  All are actively pursuing employment and volunteer at our food pantry and free clothing store.  I have never met a group of people who are more appreciative than our veterans.”

In addition to offering housing and other services to veterans, Catholic agencies help the poor, hungry, imprisoned, immigrants, refugees, and many more.

PA Bishops, Dioceses React to Supreme Court Decision

SCOTUSmarriageThe July 26 Supreme Court decision  interpreted the U.S. Constitution to require all states to license and recognize same-sex “marriage.” Here is a reaction from around the state:

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said, “The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision on marriage is not a surprise. The surprise will come as ordinary people begin to experience, firsthand and painfully, the impact of today’s action on everything they thought they knew about marriage, family life, our laws and our social institutions. The mistakes of the court change nothing about the nature of men and women, and the truth of God’s Word. The task now for believers is to form our own families even more deeply in the love of God, and to rebuild a healthy marriage culture, one marriage at a time, from the debris of today’s decision.”

Bishop Barres of the Diocese of Allentown said, in part, “In the midst of these challenges, we joyfully anticipate the arrival of Pope Francis in September and his global witness that marriage is a loving and exclusive relationship between one man and one woman on which the family is founded and on which the global common good is truly promoted.”

Bishop Persico of the Diocese of Erie said, in part, “The Supreme Court has now ruled that the definition of marriage is to be changed to include people in same-sex relationships. We are moving into an era in which the civil definition of marriage has changed, but not the church’s teaching, Scripture or natural law. I hope that the rights of Christians will be honored as well. Rather than creating more division, we must acknowledge our differences and find ways to respect each other.”

Bishop Brandt in the Diocese of Greensburg said, in part, “Today’s decision on same-sex marriage is every bit as wrong as the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion. The Church will continue to teach the truth about marriage which Jesus himself proclaimed when he said, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’” Pope Francis has reiterated that truth, as has every pope for 2,000 years. Man cannot change the order of creation and its natural law handed down by God. I call on the people of the Diocese of Greensburg to pray for our country and to pray that the Church will continue to have the strength and courage to proclaim Gospel truths.”

The Diocese of Harrisburg released a statement that said, in part, “We fear the Courts decisions redefining marriage and the rights of the States will have a long term corrosive effect on the institution of marriage which is the bedrock of our society. We pray that marriage between a man and a woman will remain a strong truth in our world. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage.”

Bishop Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh concluded his statement by saying, “The decision rendered today was an opinion of five of the nine Supreme Court Justices. It is my hope that in our nation, people who hold a traditional understanding of marriage may be respected, too. The rights of believers who hold marriage as a sacred, life-long commitment between a woman and a man need to be honored in the spirit of our country’s deep commitment to equality and religious freedom. I call on all people of good will to proclaim the goodness, truth and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for thousands of years. Where differences arise, we need to respectfully engage in dialogue in a spirit of truth rooted in love.”

Bishop Bambera of the Diocese of Scranton said, in part, “Catholic teaching regarding marriage is not a judgment about persons who experience same-sex attraction, but a statement about how the Church has always understood the nature of marriage itself. While the Church has been forthright in its long standing teaching on marriage, it has likewise proclaimed since its beginnings that every person has an inherent dignity. As our country seeks to come to terms with this decision, the Church condemns oppression and violence against all people, regardless of sexual orientation. Like every person, our gay brothers and sisters – members of our families, our communities and our churches – are beloved children of God who deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion.”