default logo

Hot Issues

VIDEO: Careless Cuts Cost Lives

U.S. poverty-focused international assistance saves lives worldwide. But some in Congress propose significant cuts to this lifesaving aid to address our nation’s deficit even though it makes up less than 1% of the U.S. budget. Send a message to your elected officials here.

Obituary for Henry J. Aschenbrenner

Henry J. Aschenbrenner, a long-time Director of Education and Deputy Executive Director, passed away on Thursday, November 15.

During his 28-year career at PCC, Henry achieved numerous victories for Pennsylvania’s nonpublic school students including bus transportation, textbooks, instructional materials and services. He was a tireless advocate for school vouchers and paved the way for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.

Henry was a founding member of the REACH Alliance and received the organization’s initial Founders’ Award in January 2010. He served as chairman of the State Education Advisory Counsel. He was awarded the Distinguished Graduate Award at Central Catholic High School and was inducted into the Philadelphia Hall of Fame for Distinguished Graduates.

Read more here, and keep Henry and his family in your prayers!

Eternal rest, grant to him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

New Website Connects Mother, Families with Adoption Agencies

To mark National Adoption Month, the Catholic social service agencies across Pennsylvania launched, a website that connects mothers and families with a Catholic adoption agency in their area and also offers encouragement and support to those who experience unintended pregnancies.

Kelly Bolton, the Program Director for Adoption Services and Foster Care for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Harrisburg, said “A statewide website that features each Catholic diocesan adoption program allows birth parents to have a one-stop shop for assistance. We are here to assist birth mothers considering adoption as a pro-life alternative to parenting. As always, we will coordinate services for any pregnant woman regardless of where she lives in the state—- there is a Catholic agency nearby and ready to help.”

By visiting and clicking “Find Help Near You,” the website user can enter his or her zip code and be directed to the nearest Catholic social service agency. A phone number, email, driving directions and website link are provided for each facility.

“Recent legislative changes have made open adoption a reality in Pennsylvania, and the website will help connect birth parents with our comprehensive services. Catholics can share this website address with their parish, friends and family. We do not want to be a ‘hidden treasure,’ we want the community to know that we are here to help, and this website will assist us.” Bolton said.

The website is intended to serve as an initial point of contact with pregnant women and their families and friends, says Fr. Sean Code, the moderator of the Social Concerns Department of the PA Catholic Conference. The department, made up of directors of Catholic Social Service agencies in Pennsylvania, oversaw the project.

“This new website acts as a portal to direct women and their families, especially those who may not be familiar with Catholic charities, to the help nearest to them.  We hope this website enhances our other outreach efforts and invites more women to consider adoption through our agencies,” said Fr. Code.

The homepage of the website states “Deciding the best option for you and your unborn or newborn child is difficult. We’re here to help you get the answers you need about adoption and the support to help you make the best decision.”

Visit for more information.

Joelle Shea is the Director of Outreach for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.

Supreme Court Affirms Stay of Execution


The US Supreme Court affirmed the stay of execution for Hubert Michael. He will not be executed tonight and his execution warrant will expire. Here is more information on this decision.  The PCC will continue to update its website as this story develops in the coming weeks.

The afternoon of Thursday, November 8, the date of scheduled execution, Hubert Michael was granted a stay of execution by the Third Circuit Court. The Attorney General filed an emergency petition to reverse the ruling, but the US Supreme Court upheld the stay.

Attorneys for Hubert Lester Michael, Jr., 56, pleaded his case before the Pennsylvania Board of Pardon on Wednesday  November 7 . He was seeking the board’s recommendation to commute his sentence from death to life imprisonment. Four members of the board voted unanimously to reject the petition for clemency (Attorney General Linda Kelly recused herself and was not present). After their unanimous vote, Hubert Michael’s attorneys did not pursue clemency reconsideration.

Michael was sentenced to death for the 1993 shooting of a York teenage girl. If the execution goes forward he will be the first inmate put to death in Pennsylvania in 13 years and the first non-volunteer in 50 years.

Michael’s attorneys brought to light a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism that they say impaired his ability to fully weigh the risks and benefits of his sentencing and appeal options. They argued that he is deeply remorseful and accepts responsibility for his crimes but that his brain disorder should be a mitigating factor in the decision to commute his sentence.

Family members and close friends of the victim, Trista Eng, described the pain they suffered from their terrible loss and their desire to have closure for their loved one. Eng’s mother explained how difficult it has been “to relive Trista’s death at every appeal and every motion filed.”

The Bishops of Pennsylvania sent letters to the Board of Pardons and Governor Tom Corbett urging a commutation of Michael’s sentence to life in prison or a temporary reprieve. The Church is not advocating that Michael go unpunished for his crime; however the Bishops believe punishment should reflect our belief in the inherent human dignity of each person. The modern penal system provides alternatives to taking the lives of guilty persons, alternatives that break the cycle of violence in our society.

Concerned citizens may also contact the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons and Governor Tom Corbett in support of commuting the death sentence to life in prison or a temporary reprieve. Use the Catholic Advocacy Network to send an email to the Board of Pardons and the governor.


Bishop Zubik: Seek Reasoned, Faithful Diaologue

Bishop Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh issued a post-election statement. Here is an excerpt:

“It has been a distinctly difficult and at times a very harsh campaign. We cannot put aside our serious commitment to the critical issues of our day, particularly the sacredness and dignity of human life, the sacredness and dignity of the family, and especially the preservation of religious freedom. We must commit ourselves to reasoned, faithful dialogue on the issues that divide us, and seek out that which unites us.”

Read the statement here.


An Appeal for Clemency for Another Death Row Inmate

UPDATE: Board of Pardons Hearing Postponed to Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Continue Reading →

A Statement of the Pennsylvania Catholic Bishops on the 2012 Elections

(NOVEMBER 1, 2012) – Each year on this day the Catholic Church celebrates “All Saints Day.”  This solemnity remembers those who have fulfilled their earthly vocation and now enjoy eternal happiness in the presence of God.  These saints may be unnamed, but they certainly are not unknown.  Their lives are characterized by steadfast faith and charitable works.  They exemplify what it means to love God and love one’s neighbor.

Continue Reading →

A Legislative Session in Review

As the 2011-2012 legislative session comes to a close this month, some are already looking to next session and hoping for legislative victories on issues of importance. But, as the saying goes, to get where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you’ve been.  So, before we turn the calendar to the new legislative session, let’s look at how issues of concern to Catholics fared in the 2011-2012 legislative session.

On the pro-life front, the legislature passed the Abortion Facilities Control Act, which holds abortion clinics to the same health and safety standards as other ambulatory surgical facilities. Prior to the passage of this legislation, it was clear that the law favored the abortion industry – not women’s health, as is so often claimed.  Legislation was passed that gave parents of stillborn children a certificate of birth. Previously, parents of stillborn children were given no official recognition of their child, and pro-abortion advocates balked at the request to recognize a child in the womb. The passage of this legislation is important for the parents who experience this most painful and heartbreaking death. Further pro-life success can be found in the state budget, where line item to fund the state’s alternatives to abortion program, Real Alternatives, contained a 5.2% increase. In a year where many programs were cut or level-funded, the PCC is pleased with this recognition of the value of life from conception.

In the coming session, pro-life advocates will again work for legislation that will remove abortion funding from the yet-to-be-created state health care exchange under the new federal health care law. Pro-life advocates also hope to revisit legislation that gives a pregnant woman the option to view her ultrasound when it is preformed to allow for a more fully informed decision. An ultrasound examination is already a standard practice in abortion clinics to determine gestational age or if the pregnancy is ectopic; it should be the mother’s right to choose for herself whether to view the ultrasound or not.

In the area of education, the popular Educational Improvement Tax Credit program was expanded from $75 million to $100 million and is now helping thousands more low and middle income families. Further, a new program, nicknamed EITC 2.0, will help thousands more by creating special scholarships particularly for income eligible students in the lowest performing 15% of public schools. This new legislation also allows individual school districts to set up their own local voucher program. For more information on this program and eligibility, visit

A piece of education-related legislation that was kick-started in this session and will be passed next session would protect religious educational ministries of young children from government interference.   Under the current law, the state Department of Public Welfare (DPW) has blank-check authority to regulate all aspects of a church’s pre-school teaching ministry, including curriculum. This is a classic church-state struggle, and after a positive vote in the Senate Education Committee and pledges from critical members of leadership in the Senate and the House, the PCC expects this legislation to pass in the next session.

In the area of concern for the poor in our state, the legislature reopened the Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP).  This program has helped thousands of Pennsylvanians over the years by providing loans to homeowners who were faced with foreclosure through no fault of their own. In the first drafts of the state budget, the Human Services Block Grant, which includes state dollars that go to counties to provide a wide range of human services, was slated for a 20% cut. Upon final passage of the budget, the grant was cut by 10%. While the PCC was pleased that the full 20% cut was not made, we continue to advocate for funding for these vital services.  Further budget cuts saw the shuttering of General Assistance. This program, which allowed for a $205 stipend to the truly needy who had no other place to turn, was not funded and there is no program to replace it. Advocates for the poor, including PCC, are extremely disappointed with the elimination of the General Assistance program and will work cooperatively with the governor and DPW to find alternatives to assist those impacted, as the state budget must reflect concern for the most poor and needy in Pennsylvania.

Several bills dealing with immigration were introduced this session, but only one of these, the Public Works and Employment Verification Act, was passed and signed into law. This act requires contractors and sub-contractors on public works projects to verify new employee eligibility by using the federal E-Verify system.  Other proposals ranging from denying public benefits to undocumented immigrants to revoking the professional licenses of employers who knowingly employ illegal immigrants did not pass.

The 2013-2014 legislative session will bring even more activity on issues that are of importance to Catholics in Pennsylvania. And the legislature needs to hear from you – their constituents. Click here to sign up for the Catholic Advocacy Network and become an agent of change in Pennsylvania. Imagine the voices of PA’s 3 million Catholics speaking together for the common good!

Joelle Shea is the Director of Outreach for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.

First American Freedom: “Your Faith is Being Rewritten”

The USCCB launched a new website today,

Visitors to the site can learn about threats to religious liberty, join in prayer and reflection about this important issue and signing up for text message alerts to stay up-to-date.

To sign up for text message alerts text “freedom” to 377377.