Hot Issues

Catholic Leaders Welcome Supreme Court’s Review of Lethal Injection Use

scalesWASHINGTON—The chairs of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Committee on Pro-life Activities welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 23 announcement that it would review the drug protocols of lethal injection executions in the state of Oklahoma. The court will consider whether the procedures violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

“I welcome the Court’s decision to review this cruel practice,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami. “Our nation has witnessed through recent executions, such as occurred in Oklahoma, how the use of the death penalty devalues human life and diminishes respect for human dignity. We bishops continue to say, we cannot teach killing is wrong by killing.”

The Court’s decision to consider the case of Glossip v. Gross, brought by three death row inmates in Oklahoma, comes after several lethal injection executions were botched, including that of Clayton D. Lockett in Oklahoma.

“Society can protect itself in ways other than the use of the death penalty,” Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, Chair of the Committee on Pro-life Activities, said. “We pray that the Court’s review of these protocols will lead to the recognition that institutionalized practices of violence against any person erode reverence for the sanctity of every human life. Capital punishment must end.”

The U.S. bishops have been advocating against the death penalty for over 40 years. In 2005, they initiated the Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and continue to work closely with state Catholic Conferences, the Catholic Mobilizing Network and other groups towards the abolition of the death penalty in the United States.

The bishops join Pope Francis who in October 2014 called on Christians and all people of good will “to fight…for the abolition of the death penalty…in all its forms,” out of respect for human dignity.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in this matter in April.

Catholic Schools Save Taxpayers $2.28 Billion

IMG_6888eMost of us manage family budgets with far fewer zeroes than the Pennsylvania state budget, which measures its expenses in the billions. State Education spending alone subsidizes $12 billion in public school expenses annually.  That is a 12 plus nine zeroes! And Pennsylvanians pay many billions more annually in local taxes to support public schools.

We can try to visualize these numbers by looking at a spreadsheet. Revenues are tallied on one side and expenses listed on the other. We can count the zeroes with our own eyes. Government budgets are a matter of public record, and public school subsidies make up 40 percent of the entire state budget. You can see for yourself what your school district spends to educate the children in your community on a newly launched website, Pennsylvania School Performance Profile. The average cost per public school pupil is $14,924.08 per year.

What the spreadsheets don’t show, however, are tax dollars saved when expenses are forgone. The database does not account for the students who are educated outside of the public schools, like the over 150,000 students who attend Pennsylvania’s Catholic schools. Given the average per pupil price tag, our Catholic schools saved the taxpayers more than $2.28 billion this year alone.  Billions more in taxes were saved by the students in other nonpublic schools or those home-schooled.

Catholic schools play a vital role in our communities. The 500 Catholic schools in Pennsylvania have graduated millions of intelligent, successful and community-minded citizens.  Catholic high schools boast nearly 100% graduation rates, with over 90% of those graduates going on to college or university. Our schools also employ over 10,000 teachers and staff, providing important jobs in the Commonwealth.

Catholic schools are providing an essential service that helps to create new generations of productive and engaged citizens, often for a fraction of the cost of educating the same student in a public school. If every nonpublic school student returned to public school, the costs would be unbearable.

Education is a matter of common good. Catholic teaching affirms that all people “have an inalienable right to an education … True education aims at the formation of the human person in the pursuit of his ultimate end and of the good of the societies of which, as man, he is a member, and in whose obligations, as an adult, he will share.” (Gravissimum Educationis, No. 1)

Morally, parents are the primary and principal educators of their children. For most families, to fulfill their primary duty of imparting education they need help from the community, be it from the Church, the state, or resources used at home.

As Pennsylvania debates how to maintain and support an educational system for its youngest citizens, we should consider all the valid and appropriate choices that each family makes about school. Instead of seeing zeroes at the end of big numbers, we should visualize the smiling faces of boys and girls eager to learn.


(PHOTO CAPTION: Smiling Catholic school students from Sacred Heart School, Lancaster, PA, Diocese of Harrisburg)

FEBRUARY 2015 column of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania. Stay up-to-date with Catholic news and issues at, and

Midstate Story Highlights Need for Safe Haven Law

safehavenNews out of Harrisburg today reminds us about the need for Pennsylvania’s Safe Haven Law, also known as the Newborn Protect Act.

According to reports, witnesses saw a woman trying to abandon her child.  Thankfully, the baby is reportedly in good health.

To many of us, this story may seem unimaginable. But in reality, women and men in crisis pregnancy may face desperation or extreme anxiety when caring for a newborn.  Some may experience domestic abuse or struggle with mental illness. It is impossible to know the despair that might drive a parent to consider abandonment.

That is why spreading the word about Safe Haven laws is so important.  Under Pennsylvania law, which was expanded just last year, a parent may leave a newborn baby up to 28 days old in the care of a hospital or police station without being criminally liable. The child can then receive proper medical attention and be referred to the proper children and youth agency, who will find the baby a home and family.

Since the law started, 25 babies have been adopted through the Safe Haven program.  However, as this week’s news indicates, not enough people know about Pennsylvania’s Safe Haven law. Please spread the word about this important option for women in crisis.

Call 1-866-921-SAFE for more information or click here.

By Joelle Shea, Director of Outreach

Diocese of Scranton Celebrating National Catholic Schools Week 2015

Diocese of Scranton Catholic SchoolsThe Diocese of Scranton is joining with Catholic schools across the United States to celebrate National Catholic Schools Week 2015, beginning this Sunday, January 25 and continuing through January 31.

This annual observance, with the theme “Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service,” focuses on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church, our communities and our nation.

“Catholic schools are a vital ministry of the church rooted in its mission of evangelization. They provide a foundation for preparing our young people to pursue excellence and to live as faithful Catholics and members of society who uphold the dignity of all and serve those in need,” said the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L., Bishop of Scranton.

The 20 schools operated by the Diocese of Scranton are organized into four regional systems: Holy Redeemer, Luzerne County; Holy Cross, Lackawanna and Bradford Counties; Notre Dame, Monroe County; and St. John Neumann, Lycoming County.

The schools will observe National Catholic Schools Week with Masses and a variety of activities for students, families, and community members. Many schools will also host open houses this Sunday, January 25, to give families an opportunity to visit and talk to administrators, faculty and current students about the Catholic school experience. School locations and open house schedules can be found at

“I am very excited about the future of Catholic education in our Diocese,” said Monsignor David Tressler, Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Education and Superintendent of Catholic Schools. “I am indeed privileged to work with so many devoted and dedicated staff serving students in our schools. We are also grateful to the parents who entrust their children to our care and pray that more families will accept our invitation to be a part of our learning communities rooted in faith, hope, and love.”

Diocesan Catholic schools provide an environment that is spiritually sound, academically excellent and service oriented.

The Individualized Instruction (II) Program currently serves students with exceptionalities in the Holy Redeemer System at Good Shepherd Academy, Kingston, and Holy Redeemer High School, Wilkes-Barre; and in the Holy Cross System at All Saints Academy, Scranton, and Holy Cross High School, Dunmore.

In addition to a comprehensive academic program, Diocesan schools provide and encourage study in art, music and cultural enrichment. Educators help students explore their abilities in a variety of genres.

The schools also include individual and team athletic programs and a wide array of extra-curricular activities, both traditional and innovative, reflecting students’ myriad interests.

High school juniors and seniors are offered Advanced Placement classes as well as college-level courses at The University of Scranton, Marywood University, Misericordia University and King’s College, through the Diocesan Young Scholars Program.

In the Class of 2014, nearly 95 percent of the total number of graduates had plans to continue their education at the college or university level. Of that number, almost 34 were to attend Catholic institutions of higher learning. The four Diocesan Catholic high schools reported that, cumulatively, their graduates merited over 900 scholarship awards –– worth nearly $36 million.

Cardinal O’Malley Welcomes House Passage of ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act’

usccb1-150x150Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, welcomed passage of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015” (H.R. 7) by the U.S. House of Representatives. “By passing this legislation, the House has taken a decisive step toward respect for unborn human life, reflecting the will of the American people,” he said.

Co-sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL), the pro-life bill passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 242-179 on January 22, the day of the annual March for Life in Washington. The House approved identical legislation a year ago by a closer margin, 227-188.

The bill codifies a permanent, government-wide policy against taxpayer subsidies for abortion and abortion coverage. It also requires health plans offered under the Affordable Care Act to disclose the extent of their coverage for abortion and the amount of any surcharge for that coverage to consumers.

Cardinal O’Malley wrote to Congress last January urging support for the legislation, saying it “will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 37 years: The federal government should not use its funding power to support and promote elective abortion, and should not force taxpayers to subsidize this violence. Even public officials who take a ‘pro-choice’ stand, and courts that have insisted on a constitutional ‘right’ to abortion, have agreed that the government has every right (in the Supreme Court’s words) to ‘encourage childbirth over abortion.’”

“H.R. 7 also requires health plans under the Affordable Care Act to provide full disclosure on their abortion coverage to consumers,” said Cardinal O’Malley. “This lets Americans choose health coverage that reflects their values.  Just as most Americans do not want their tax dollars used for abortion, they do not want their own health coverage misused to pay for abortions.  I hope the U.S. Senate will take up this important legislation soon.”

Support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

Youcat-pro-life-quoteWEBSITEHundreds of thousands of Americans will participate in the March for Life this week in Washington, DC. You can make your own stand for the dignity of life by sending a message in support of H.R. 36, important pro-life legislation.

In a January 20 letter to Congress, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36).

The conviction in 2013 of Philadelphia’s Dr. Kermit Gosnell for crimes committed while providing abortions has “led many Americans to realize that our permissive laws and attitudes have allowed the abortion industry to undertake these procedures.” People are repulsed “by the callous and barbarous treatment of women and children in Gosnell’s clinic, and in other clinics that abort children after 20 weeks.”

These procedures also pose serious dangers to women, “as evidenced by Gosnell’s own manslaughter conviction for one woman’s death, and news about the death or serious complications of other women undergoing such procedures.”

Join those participating in this week’s March for Life today by standing up for the dignity of all human life. Send a message in support of H.R. 36 today.  

UPDATE: While HR 36 was not voted on as expected, you can still send a message to your representative in support of this legislation!

Tom Wolf Takes Office as Pennsylvania’s New Governor

govwolf2Read Governor Wolf’s inaugural address here. Here is an excerpt:

“More than anything, I want to thank all Pennsylvanians who worked so hard to get me here, and those who took a chance to vote for a different kind of leader.

To those who didn’t, I hope I’m able to give you a reason to believe over the next four years. I am an unconventional Governor.

I am not a product of our political system.
During my campaign, I pledged to be a different kind of governor, and I will keep that promise.

This age—and this time—demands nothing less.
We are told that we are living through a transformational era.

I may be the first governor of Pennsylvania who operated a forklift…managed a hardware store… volunteered for the Peace Corps… and ran a business.

We need leaders today who are willing to listen to each other . . . and learn from each other . . . and work together to give all Pennsylvanians a shot at a great life.

The world hasn’t seen this much change happen …this fast …since we moved from farms to factories more than 100 years ago.

For those who are part of that change, who are ready for that change, this new era is creating opportunities that our ancestors never imagined.”

Read more here. 

USCCB Chairman Responds to Supreme Court Decision to take Marriage Cases

usccbWASHINGTON—The U. S. Supreme Court granted a request, January 16, to review the November 2014 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upholding the constitutionality of marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, responded to the Court’s action saying, “A decision by the Supreme Court on whether a state may define marriage as the union of one man and one woman may be the most significant Court decision since the Court’s tragic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision making abortion a constitutional right.”

Archbishop Cordileone also noted, “It’s hard to imagine how the essential meaning of marriage as between the two sexes, understood in our nation for over two hundred years, and consistent with every society throughout all of human history, could be declared illegal. To those arguing for a constitutional redefinition of marriage, one must ask: when did the Constitution suddenly mandate a novel and unfounded definition of marriage? To ask such a question is not a judgment on anyone. It is a matter of justice and truth. The central issue at stake is: what is marriage? The answer is: a bond which unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children who come from their union. Only a man and a woman can unite their bodies in a way that creates a new human being. Marriage is thus a unique and beautiful reality which a society respects to its benefit or ignores to its peril.”

Archbishop Cordileone added, “Let us pray that the Supreme Court will be guided by right reason and render a true and just decision upholding the constitutionality of states to respect the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the coming months.

New Members of the PCHA Board Elected

PA Catholic Health logo_v7The Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association (PCHA) enables the Catholic health care ministry to continue and strengthen its vital role as Christ’s healing presence in the communities served.

PCHA provides a forum for communication and advocacy coordination within the Catholic health care ministry in Pennsylvania to advocate for the sanctity of life and justice in health care. PCHA members recognize the particular needs of children, the elderly, the poor and the underserved.  A complete list of PCHA members is available here.

PCHA has announced its newly elected and re-elected board members and officers. They are as follows:

The term of office for each category is from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015. Each officer is serving his or her first term.

Ms. Christina M. Fitz-Patrick, PCHA Chairperson, serves as Executive Director/Administrator at Mercy Suburban Hospital, East Norriton.

Mr. Benjamin J. Pieczynski, PCHA Vice Chairperson, serves as Vice President of St. Joseph Manor, Meadowbrook.

Ms. Phyllis L. Grasser, PCHA Secretary, services as Vice President of Mission Integration and Spiritual Care at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Mercy, Pittsburgh.

Mr. John R. Morahan, PCHA Treasurer, serves as President and CEO of St. Joseph Regional Health Network, Reading.

Members at Large
The term of office for re-elected and newly elected members of the PCHA board is January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2017.

Mr. Mark T. Bullock, Esq., serves as Senior Vice President for Advocacy and General Counsel, Mercy Health System, Philadelphia.

Brother John-Daniel Lytle, BFFC, serves as Vice President of Residential Living at St. Anne’s Retirement Community, Columbia.

Mr. Ronald J. Reynolds serves as President and CEO of Muncy Valley Hospital, Muncy.

Ms. Mary F. Turnbaugh serves as President of St. Anne’s Retirement Community, Columbia.

Continuing Members
The following is a list of continuing members of the PCHA Board.

Mr. Greg Wonzniak, President and CEO of St. Mary Medical Center, Langhorne.

Ms. Carol J. Quinn, President and CEO of Mercy Home and Community Health Services, Springfield.

Sr. Romaine Niemeyer, SCC, Chief Administrative Officer of Holy Spirit Health System, Camp Hill.

Sr. Judith Maroni, CSJ, Director of Mission Integration of Villa St. Joseph, Baden.

Mr. John L. Nespoli, President and CEO of Sacred Heart Hospital, Allentown.

Sr. Kathryn Clauss, IHM, Vice President and Councilor for Missioning and Community Life at the IHM Center, Scranton.

Dr. Philip J. Boyle, Vice President for Mission and Ethics at Trinity Health, Newtown Square.