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Bishops: Court ruling on TPS means 'lives will be upended'

Bishops and issues for September 2020, a round-up of U.S. bishops' statements in response to issues in the news

Lives will be upended: Bishops respond to court decision on Temporary Protected Status

WASHINGTON | In a ruling issued Sept. 14, 2020, in Ramos v. Wolf, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated an existing preliminary injunction or pause of the Trump Administration’s attempt to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for over 200,000 individuals living legally in the United States.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, issued the following statement:

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“The Ninth Circuit’s decision continues a heartbreaking path of uncertainty and fear for hundreds of thousands of TPS recipients needlessly put into motion by the Trump Administration. As detailed in our extensive work in Central America and the Caribbean, TPS countries such as El Salvador and Haiti cannot adequately handle the return of TPS recipients and their families. The spread of COVID-19 has only made conditions worse. Today's decision will fragment American families, leaving, for example, over 192,000 U.S. citizen children of Salvadoran TPS recipients without their parents and with uncertain futures.

“Our nation must not turn its back on TPS recipients and their families; they too are children of God. We stand in solidarity with TPS recipients, who are here and have been living and working in the United States legally, and we will continue to do so with them in their countries of origin.

“We renew our call for the U.S. Senate to take up the American Dream and Promise Act, which the House passed last year. We stand ready to support such efforts. Without action by Congress, however, recipients’ lives will be upended. Congress must act to ensure that such catastrophic human consequences do not occur.”

To learn more about Temporary Protected Status, please see the Justice for Immigrants website.

Affirming right to shelter for all, bishops commend improvements to HUD Rule

WASHINGTON | The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has submitted public comment on a proposed regulation modifying the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s “Equal Access Rule” for temporary and emergency shelters.

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, issued the following statement:

“Our Catholic faith teaches that housing is a universal and inviolable right of all persons. This right must be available to all people, and we have a particular concern for individuals who are most vulnerable. We advocate for this just as Catholic service providers endeavor to meet the needs of all who come to their doors. In this way, we pursue the imperative work of mercy that Jesus made known in saying ‘I was . . . a stranger and you welcomed me.’

“The regulation proposed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, modifying rules with respect to sex-specific accommodations, poses considerations affecting the well-being of, and service to, the poor. Though not perfect nor answering all questions, it is a step in the right direction toward improving flexibility while respecting all persons’ right to basic shelter, for which we are grateful.

“Because individual shelters function under varying circumstances, have different facilities and resources, and may have specialized programming or work with distinctly vulnerable persons, ‘one-size-fits-all’ mandates may not always be appropriate. Flexibility for personnel to ensure shelters and their arrangements are as beneficial as possible for all persons, while remaining faithful to the truths that motivate their service, is important.”

The full text of the USCCB comment letter may be accessed here.

Special collection for victims of hurricane, wildfires

WASHINGTON | Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has requested that bishops across the country consider taking up a voluntary special collection for the humanitarian, long-term recovery, and Church needs arising from the increasing number of natural disasters in the United States.

In his letter sent to bishops, Archbishop Gomez wrote, in part, “The traditional storm season has only just begun and already we have witnessed the devastating impact of Hurricane Laura and the California wildfires. Thousands of homes, businesses, and churches have been severely damaged or destroyed, and the impacts will be long-lasting.”

“We offer our prayers to families who have lost loved ones, homes, and businesses. Archbishop Etienne, the chairman of our Committee on National Collections, has been in touch with several bishops to learn about their situations and to offer our prayers and our desire to be of assistance in this time of need.”

“The funds collected in this special appeal will become part of the Bishops Emergency Disaster Fund and will be used to support the efforts of Catholic Charities USA and/or Catholic Relief Services, the official relief agencies of the U.S. Catholic Church, as they and their local agencies respond to immediate emergency needs for such necessities as water, food, shelter, and medical care, and aid in long-term rebuilding and recovery efforts; and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for pastoral and reconstruction needs of the Church.

“Funds will be used in response to Hurricane Laura and any other disasters that occur and will be distributed where they are most needed. However, if such purpose(s) become unnecessary, impractical or impossible to fill, USCCB may use such contributions for other emergency disaster relief where it is most needed as determined by the Committee on National Collections using its emergency response protocol.”

Archbishop Gomez acknowledged the severity of the impact of COVID-19 on parish and diocesan activities and its challenging impact on fundraising, but also expressed hope in the generosity of the faithful and their care for those in need.  

More information about the Office of National Collections and its support of emergency relief efforts can be found at https://www.usccb.org/committees/national-collections.

Bishop notes Hispanics' contributions to U.S. Church

WASHINGTON | As the observance of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15) began, Bishop Arturo Cepeda, auxiliary bishop of Detroit and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs, says both the Catholic Church and American society must acknowledge the historic and current contributions of Hispanic and Latino leadership in all spheres of church and society.

This year, Hispanic Heritage Month is especially meaningful as the Catholic Church in the United States is reaping the fruits of a four-year process called the V (Fifth) National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry. The main goal of the V Encuentro has been to discern ways in which the Church in the United States can better respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence, and to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to the New Evangelization as missionary disciples serving the entire Church and society. The V Encuentro and the previous four Encuentros have recognized how Hispanics/Latinos have been woven into the very fabric of Church and society in the U.S. for many generations.

In preparation for, and during the V Encuentro process, significant demographic research was conducted and aggregated on the presence of Latinos in the Church and in U.S. society. Some of the findings include the fact that from 1990 to 2016, the U.S. Hispanic/Latino Catholic population increased by about 13.7 million, while the overall U.S. Catholic population only increased by about 3.6 million. This demonstrates that Hispanics have been a major driving force behind the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States over the last three decades. An additional finding was that the percentage of U.S. Hispanics/Latinos who were Catholic in 2016 was 52%, and just over half of the Catholics under age 50 were Hispanic/Latino.

These and other statistics are included in the V Encuentro demographic research report and media kit.

“As the formal V Encuentro process transitions into its implementation phase, it is clear that the numerous initiatives emanating from it show the enthusiasm and vibrancy of the Church,” said Bishop Cepeda. In order to help highlight this, the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs will be conducting a national V Encuentro event virtually on October 9 and 10.

“It is our hope that this event will help participants to visualize the future of Hispanic/Latino ministry both at the local and national level, and of Hispanic leadership and participation within their organizations,” said Bishop Cepeda. “We will also celebrate and rejoice in the fruits of the V Encuentro and our Catholic faith as we are sent forth, once again, as joyful missionary disciples.”

This virtual gathering is designed to help dioceses, parishes, and Catholic organizations drive home the findings of the V Encuentro and assist them in identifying, creating, or fine-tuning their pastoral responses at the local level. The ongoing health and economic constraints generated by the COVID-19 pandemic impeded a good number of dioceses and regions from in-person gatherings to complete the V Encuentro process, as originally planned.

“The V Encuentro process has showcased the deep faith and commitment of Hispanics and Latinos to the Church. At the same time, it has demonstrated their entrepreneurship, profound awareness and care about the social ailments of our society, as well as their strong commitment to social justice, including a wide range of life issues,” said Bishop Cepeda. “Hispanics, and in particular Hispanic Catholics, are determined to be part of the solution to the current reality: the COVID-19 pandemic, the call for racial justice, and the continuing impact of global climate change.”

At the national level, these priorities include leadership development, particularly of Hispanic/Latino young adults, a focus on strengthening marriage and family life, evangelization and catechesis with a strong scriptural component, vocational discernment, educational attainment, and generating responses to the pastoral challenges generated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected people of color, particularly Blacks and Latinos.

Bishops call on Congress, White House to reach new deal on COVID relief

WASHINGTON | Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued a statement Sept. 8, 2020 calling on lawmakers in Congress and the White House to reach a deal on the next COVID relief package that meets the urgent needs of the nation:

“Earlier this year, the leaders of our government reached a bipartisan deal that provided significant relief to those suffering from the health and economic crises that we continue to experience. Many of the good relief measures in that previous package are running out. Families and individuals are having trouble affording food, housing, and health care, and hunger-related crises grow internationally. Many non-public schools must choose between reopening and permanent closure and require additional assistance to safely reopen. Hospitals are bracing for a spike of cases in the Fall and continue to experience fewer preventative and elective health visits. Cases are spiking in detention centers, prisons, and jails. Many businesses and charities are suffering dire hardship again. States, cities, and towns face shortfalls providing essential services. Today, I ask our leaders in Washington to once again set aside their differences in order to reach an agreement that prioritizes the poor and vulnerable.

“My brother bishops and I have written multiple times with specific recommendations on how to meet the needs of this moment.  It is imperative to act soon. May God grant all those participating in negotiations a heart that eagerly responds to the cry of the poor.”

The following are USCCB letters to Congress outlining policy priorities:

  1. Senate and House Committees on Appropriations (April 9, 2020)
  2. Senate and House Committees on the Judiciary (April 9, 2020)
  3. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and House Committee on Education and Labor (April 9, 2020)
  4. Senate Committee on Finance, House Committee on Ways and Means, and House  Committee on Energy and Commerce (April 9, 2020)
  5. All members of Congress on moral framework for health care (May 7, 2020)
  6. All members of Congress summarizing all COVID-related needs (July 30, 2020)
  7. Senate and House leadership on Catholic education (August 5, 2020)

Bishops praise move to ensure global health assistance doesn't promote abortion

WASHINGTON | Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, thanked and praised the Trump Administration Aug. 20, 2020, following the release of its second report showing successful implementation of an expanded Mexico City Policy aptly renamed, “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance.”

The report shows that the vast majority of foreign NGOs —1,285 out of 1,340— have complied with this policy with minimal disruption of health services and no reduction in funding.

“The Trump Administration deserves our praise for ensuring that U.S. global health assistance funding actually promotes health and human rights, and doesn’t undermine them by promoting abortion. Killing innocent and defenseless unborn children through abortion is not health care. Abortion violates an unborn child’s most basic human right, the right to life, and it also can wound the mother emotionally and physically. Americans recognize this injustice and an overwhelming majority of them oppose giving tax dollars to organizations that are more committed to promoting abortion than providing health services.”

Bishops vote to hold November meeting virtually

WASHINGTON | Each November, the bishops of the United States gather for their General Assembly in Baltimore. At the end of August, after consultation with the Holy See, the bishop-members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to approve the convocation of this annual November meeting in a virtual format in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The vote was 219 to 5 (1 abstaining).

The agenda will be finalized by the Administrative Committee of the USCCB, set to meet in mid-September. Earlier this year, the Administrative Committee voted to cancel their Spring Assembly out of concern for the health, well-being, and safety of the bishops, staff, observers, guests, affiliates, volunteers, contractors, and media involved with the general meetings in the wake of the novel coronavirus. It marked the first cancellation of a plenary assembly in the Conference’s history.  

The bylaws of the Conference state that a plenary assembly is to be convened at least once a year, and conducting the November meeting in virtual format fulfills this requirement. More information will be made available as the details of the virtual meeting are finalized and will be posted to https://www.usccb.org/meetings.

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