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In Support of Church in Ukraine In Time of Duress

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A statement from Archbishop Soroka of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia on the ongoing protests in the Ukraine, and the threats to religious freedom being leveled there:

The hierarchy, clergy, religious and faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States of  America express our complete confidence and support for our Patriarch Sviatoslav, Reverend Hierarchs, Clergy, Religious and Faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine in their response of offering much needed pastoral care for the brave Ukrainian citizens voicing their opposition to the suppression of  freedoms in today’s society in Ukraine. Their response of love and understanding and nurture recalls for all the compassion which Jesus showed for the oppressed.

We share the amazement of the civilized world in observing the harsh and brutal responses of the
Ukrainian government to our Church and to people expressing their concerns for the welfare of their neighbors and their nation. The reports of threats of intimidation by government officials as to the legitimacy of this Church of Martyrdom, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, cause all of us great concern for the welfare of all people of Ukraine, and particularly for all faiths and religious communities.

We call upon our brothers and sisters of all faiths in the USA to support those who show great
courage in opposing those who would want to restrict the expression of religious and other basic human freedoms in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church only recently emerged from the oppressive circumstances it endured for over fifty years under Soviet communism, with the hope and commitment of freely celebrating our faith in a democratic nation. Unfortunately, persons with oppressive and repressive ideologies continue to exercise an inordinate control amidst a people simply desiring to live freely and to express their faith without fear of retribution and assimilation into one dominant faith. Such persons in authority pose a danger to people of all faiths in the former communist countries. Ukraine can be regarded as the stage for the re-imposition of specific ideologies of control and repression. The only remedy is for people of all faiths, together with persons committed to the development of a nurturing democracy in Ukraine, to speak in
solidarity and to support those who demonstrate great courage in raising their voices in protest against the  forces of oppression.

Read the entire statement here.

Resolved: Cover All Kids

CHIP FINAL‘Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions. By now many of us are taking action to improve something in our lives or maybe we have already abandoned our good intentions. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has one resolution we cannot abandon – ensuring every child is covered by health insurance.

Pennsylvania’s 2013-2014 budget includes $8.5 million for enrollment and outreach for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. That funding means 9,000 more children will have the security of health insurance. Further, what had been a six-month waiting period is now lifted, meaning timelier access to the benefits for new CHIP participants.

CHIP now can cover all uninsured kids in Pennsylvania; no family makes too much money to qualify. Some families will qualify for free CHIP coverage; others will pay a small affordable monthly premium. CHIP covers doctor visits, prescriptions, dental and eye care, immunizations, hospital stays and much more.

Pennsylvania’s children deserve to lead healthy, successful lives. Insurance coverage improves the health of children and is strongly linked to academic success as well. Health care coverage for children is a worthy investment in our future.

To make this resolution a reality, people need to know about it. If you or someone you know has children who need health insurance, sign them up today. Visit www.chipcoverspakids.com or call 1-800-986 KIDS to apply.

Historical Note:PA Catholic Health logo_v7

The Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association (PCHA)had a hand in the successful passage of the first Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1992.

Since then, Pennsylvania’s program has been used as a model nationwide for covering uninsured kids. Catholic health care entities, social services agencies and schools work vigorously in outreach and enrollment activities for both the CHIP and Medical Assistance programs. Due to their good work, the CHIP program upholds conscience protection measures to prevent discrimination against religious providers and does not facilitate access to morally objectionable services such as abortion. PCHA is celebrating its 50th anniversary, learn more here.

 

Archbishop Cordileone Strongly Endorses State Marriage Defense Act

usccb1-150x150From the USCCB—Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, applauded the January 9 introduction of the bipartisan State Marriage Defense Act of 2014 (H.R. 3829) in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Randy Weber (R-TX).

“The State Marriage Defense Act is a necessary piece of legislation that will prevent the federal government from unjustly disregarding, in certain instances, state marriage laws concerning the definition of marriage,” said Archbishop Cordileone.

In a letter of support to Rep. Weber, Archbishop Cordileone noted that various agencies of the federal government have begun using a “place of celebration” rule to determine whether persons are validly married for purposes of federal law. He went on to say, “The Supreme Court’s decision last year in United States v. Windsor, however, requires the federal government to defer to state marriage law, not disregard it.” He therefore concluded that this bill is necessary because it “would remedy this problem by requiring the federal government, consistent with Windsor, to defer to the marriage law of the state in which people actually reside when determining whether they are married for purposes of federal law.”

Urging the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Act, Archbishop Cordileone said, “State marriage laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman deserve respect by the federal government. This bill does that. I, therefore, strongly encourage the House of Representatives to pass the State Marriage Defense Act.”

Archbishop Cordileone’s letter of support to Rep. Randy Weber can be found at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Ltr-to-Weber-re-SMDA.pdf.

State Abortion Rates Decline

Youcat-pro-life-quoteWEBSITEPennsylvania abortion rates are declining. In 2012, there were 34,536 abortions – nearly five percent fewer than the year before.

Most abortions in Pennsylvania are performed on unmarried women (89 percent). The decline is unequivocally attributed to them. Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national keeper of vital statistics, it is also true that fewer young, unmarried women are having babies. The birth rate for unmarried women fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2012 (The overall birthrate in America is also declining and the number births to unmarried women compared to those who are married increased slightly).

Public opinion is leaning more pro-life, especially among young people. In May of 2013, a Gallup poll revealed that 48 percent of Americans identify themselves as pro-life and 67 percent of people age 18-34 believe the abortion should only be legal in a few circumstances or illegal in all circumstances (Gallup Poll, May 2013).

I would argue that these statistics indicate that an increasing number of young women are exercising their right to make choices that are life affirming.  More pro-life people mean more pro-life decisions, right? But not everyone credits the free-will choices of women for the declining abortion rate.

A recent New York Times headline read “Access to Abortion Falling as States Pass Restrictions” (January 3, 2014). The article explains that many new state regulations went into effect last year, including late-term abortion bans, doctor and clinic regulations, limits on medication-induced abortions and bans on insurance coverage of abortion. Clinics unwilling to raise their standards may close their doors, and taxpayer supported insurance policies for the previously uninsured will not cover elective abortions.

The president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Cecile Richards, used the word “catastrophe” to describe the impact of these restrictions on women. She does not describe what harm she expects will come to women. I wonder if she really means catastrophe for Planned Parenthood’s bottom line. The nation’s largest abortion provider reports $87.4 million in excess revenues over expenses in 2012 (Planned Parenthood Annual Report, 2011-2012).

Are tougher laws and stricter standards the reason fewer women are choosing abortion? Maybe. But what if it is the other way around? What if abortion restrictions are succeeding in state legislatures because more people think abortion is the wrong choice?

If we are grounded in faith, we can see God’s hand in these statistics. We derive hope and encouragement in fewer abortions; but we cannot dismiss the 34,536 lives that were lost. We cannot rest until no woman feels that abortion is her only choice.

Visit pacatholic.org to join the Catholic Advocacy Network and add your voice to others speaking in support of the dignity of life.

Bishops’ Official Voices Support for ‘No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act’

From the USCCB – In congressional testimony, an official of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has voiced the bishops’ support for H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” The bipartisan bill was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) to prevent every federal program from funding abortion and abortion coverage on a permanent basis. A hearing was held on the legislation January 9, by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.

“H.R. 7 will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 35 years: The federal government should not use its funding power to support or promote abortion,” said Richard M. Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB Secretariat of ProLife Activities. “This principle has been embodied in the Hyde amendment and numerous other provisions governing a wide range of domestic and foreign programs.  It has consistently had the support of the American people.  Women oppose federally funded or federally mandated abortion coverage as strongly as men or more so; low-income Americans oppose it more strongly than the affluent.”

Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1980 decision upholding the Hyde amendment, Doerflinger observed: “Even courts insisting on a constitutional ‘right’ to abortion have said this alleged right ‘implies no limitation on the authority of a State to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion, and to implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds’.”

Doerflinger said that “Congress’s policy has been consistent for decades,” but “its implementation in practice has been piecemeal, confusing and sometimes sadly inadequate.”  This is especially true of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010, he said, citing “recent developments” that “underscore a need to correct the abortion funding problems” in the Act.

The full text of Doerflinger’s written testimony can be found at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/upload/HR-7-No-Taxpayer-Funding-for-Abortion-Testimony-1-9-2014.pdf.  Following is the text he prepared for oral delivery at the hearing:

Thank you for this opportunity to voice our support for H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.

H.R. 7 will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 35 years: The federal government should not use its funding power to support or promote abortion.  This principle has been embodied in the Hyde amendment and numerous other provisions governing a wide range of domestic and foreign programs.  It has consistently had the support of the American people.  Women oppose federally funded or federally mandated abortion coverage as strongly as men or more so; low-income Americans oppose it more strongly than the affluent.

Even courts insisting on a constitutional “right” to abortion have said this alleged right “implies no limitation on the authority of a State to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion, and to implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds.”  In 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court said the Hyde amendment is an exercise of “the legitimate congressional interest in protecting potential life,” adding: “Abortion is inherently different from other medical procedures, because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life.”  The Court’s only mistake here was its use of the phrase “potential life,” since unborn children are actually alive until they are made actually dead by abortion.  More recently the court has said simply that the government “may express profound respect for the life of the unborn” by regulating abortion.

While Congress’s policy has been consistent for decades, its implementation in practice has been piecemeal, confusing and sometimes sadly inadequate.  Gaps or loopholes have been discovered in this patchwork of provisions over the years, highlighting the need for a permanent and consistent policy across the federal government.  In 2010 Congress passed major health care reform legislation with at least four different policies on abortion funding, ranging from a ban on such funding in one section of the bill to a potential mandate for such funding in another.  These problems have arisen partly because various sections of the Affordable Care Act not only authorize but appropriate their own funds, thus bypassing the Hyde amendment and similar longstanding appropriations provisions.

Recent developments underscore a need to correct the abortion funding problems in the Affordable Care Act.  In 2010 the Act was used to approve direct federal funding of elective abortion coverage under the state “high risk pool” program, until this was uncovered by pro-life groups.  As state health exchanges have begun to operate, Americans are finding it difficult to find a plan without abortion coverage or even to get clear answers as to which plans those are – and they are discovering that despite public assurances to the contrary, they may be forced by the government to subsidize other people’s abortions as a condition for obtaining the health care their families need.  And members and staff of Congress, previously assured that they would be free to choose from a full range of federally subsidized health plans without having to pay for abortions, are finding that they have been deprived of that freedom, contrary to longstanding federal law.

If a bill like H.R. 7 had been enacted before the health care reform debate began, that debate would not have been about abortion funding.  A major obstacle to support by Catholics and other pro-life Americans would have been removed, and the final legislation would not have been so badly compromised by provisions that place unborn human lives at grave risk.

H.R. 7 would prevent problems and confusions on abortion funding in future legislation.  Federal health bills could be debated in terms of their ability to promote the goal of universal health care, instead of being mired in debates about one lethal procedure that most Americans know is not truly “health care” at all.

To answer some questions raised about H.R. 7:

First, it does not eliminate private coverage for abortion, but specifically allows such coverage when purchased without federal subsidy.

Second, it does not create an unprecedented policy of denying “tax benefits” to abortion, but follows the Affordable Care Act in this regard. The ACA itself describes the provision of tax credits for abortion as a use of “federal funds.”

My prepared text provides additional details on these points and I would be happy to answer questions about them.

Keywords: Richard Doerflinger, Chris Smith, abortion, Hyde Amendment, Affordable Care Act, No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

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Support the long-term unemployed as they search for decent work

Over one million jobless Americans lost a vital source of support at the end of 2013 when Congress failed to extend the Emergency Unemployment program.

Unless Congress extends emergency unemployment, millions more will lose this financial lifeline over the course of the year. Call your Senators and Representative and ask them to protect extend this vital assistance.

Blessed John Paul II, in Laborem Exercens, called unemployment an evil and said during times of economic pain and high unemployment, there is a moral obligation to ensure unemployed workers and their families have a basic level of security.

Read more and send your message here.

National Migration Week and the goal of immigration reform, 2014

Photo by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness

Photo by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness

By Archbishop Charles Chaput, Catholicphilly.com

While the immigration debate in this country has burned on for years, Congress has consistently failed to pass adequate reform legislation. No single party bears the blame for the paralysis. Both Democrats and Republicans have misused this issue, and the powerful emotions it generates, for political gain. As a result, despite millions of words in partisan sloganeering, our national immigration policy still fails to address the complicated economic and social forces driving immigration.

Worse, this gridlock has very human consequences in the separation of children who are U.S. citizens from their non-citizen parents, and the wholesale alienation of immigrant communities.

As America’s bishops have stressed many times in the past, in the United States we now employ a permanent underclass of human beings who build our roads, pick our fruit, clean our hotel rooms and landscape our lawns. Most of these men and women, like millions of immigrants before them, simply want a better life for their children. They pay billions into our tax and Social Security systems. But even as we benefit from their labor, we too often do not offer them the basic protection of law. When convenient, we blame them for our social ills and pursue policies that intimidate them and their families.

Our immigration laws undergird this troubling status quo. Despite billions spent on enforcement each year, most unauthorized migrants find jobs once they arrive, or, in the case of visa overstays, remain in the United States. And while hundreds of thousands of these workers are added to our economy each year, only a fraction of that number in annual immigrant visas become available for people to enter our country legally.

Congress can end these current policy and humanitarian failures by adopting a comprehensive immigration reform package. Any serious reform should provide a path to permanent citizenship for the undocumented already here, and create avenues for future workers and their families to enter the country legally.

Obviously, maintaining the rule of law is a vital aspect of reform. Americans have very legitimate concerns for public safety and the solvency of our public institutions. Nor is the problem purely a product of ill will in Washington, D.C. Some people enjoy blaming the United States for nearly every problem, and unfortunately, American policy has had a very mixed history in Latin America. But until Latin American nations seriously reform their own legal and economic systems, they also bear responsibility for the current crisis. Just pointing fingers at the United States accomplishes very little. One of the implications of a hemispheric economy is that both sides of the border need to cooperate. Both sides of the border have duties.

Nonetheless, we should remember that while we are a nation of laws, we also are a nation founded on the principle of justice. Accomplishing immigration reform would restore justice to our immigration system and strengthen, not undermine, the rule of law.

By providing the undocumented population an opportunity to work toward permanent citizenship through earned legalization, we would encourage them to identify themselves to the government. By creating avenues for migrant workers and their families to cross the border safely, we would better enable the government to monitor who enters the country and for what purpose. Law enforcement officials would then be able to focus on apprehending real criminals: drug smugglers, human traffickers and potential terrorists.

It does not take political courage to complain about undocumented immigrants. It does take political courage to seek and achieve real change in immigration policies sustained on the weakness of those without rights or a voice.

We need to pray that our elected federal officials will find the courage in this new year of Our Lord, 2014, to finally pass real immigration reform. In the end, the ultimate question for Congress – and for all Americans – is whether we want to live in a society that accepts the toil of migrants with one hand, and then treats them like outcasts with the other. For our own sake, I want to believe the answer is “no.”

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Send a message in support of immigration reform here.

National Migration Week 2014 To Be Celebrated January 5-11

WASHINGTON, DC —National Migration Week will be observed in dioceses around the country January 5-11. The theme is “Out of the Darkness,” and echoes the figurative darkness undocumented immigrants, children, refugees and victims of human trafficking must face when their ability to live out their lives is severely restricted, often due to violence and exploitation.

During the week, Catholics are called to participate through prayer and action to try and ease the struggles of immigrants, migrants and vulnerable populations and to reflect on the Church’s obligation to welcome the stranger.

“It is our call as the Church to bring the light of Christ to these populations, banish the darkness, and help to bring them from the margins of society to its center,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration. “During National Migration Week, we should not only pray for those who are marginalized but also advocate that protections are provided to them, for they need them most.”

Bishop Elizondo cited immigration reform legislation, currently pending in Congress, as an example of how the Church and advocates can assist vulnerable migrants and their families.

“Congress must act on reforming our broken immigration system in 2014,” he said. “The passage of immigration reform would protect millions of immigrants who otherwise face deportation, detention, and family separation. Catholics across the nation can play an instrumental role in achieving this important goal.”

Planned activities for next year’s National Migration Week include mailing postcards to Congress on January 7, a call-in day to Congress on January 8 and a social media action day on January 9. Information on how Catholics can join Migration and Refugee Services’ efforts to call on Congress to pass fair and comprehensive immigration reform can be found at www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

Goals of the campaign are to:

1. Provide a path to citizenship for undocumented persons in the country.
2. Preserve family unity as a cornerstone of our national immigration system.
3. Provide legal paths for low-skilled immigrant workers to come and work in the United States.
4. Restore due process protections to immigration enforcement policies.
5. Address the root causes of migration caused by persecution and economic disparity.

The observance of National Migration Week was launched over a quarter century ago by the U.S. bishops to give Catholics an opportunity to see the wide diversity of peoples in the Church and the ministries serving them.

Educational materials and other resources for National Migration Week can be found at www.usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/national-migration-week.
Posters, prayer cards and booklets can be ordered through the USCCB publishing service at www.usccbpublishing.org or by calling 800-235-8722.

Keywords: Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Committee on Migration, migrants, immigrants, National Migration Week, Congress, immigration reform, refugees, human trafficking, deportation, detention, family separation

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