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Bishops express grief over ‘unspeakable terror’ in Las Vegas

Also call for passage of laws to aid unborn children, Dreamers, and protect conscience rights

WASHINGTON | The U.S. bishops have issued a number of statements in the past few weeks in response to the recent tragedies and natural disasters in Mexico and the U.S., as well as in support of specific legislation pending in Congress. Here’s a quick round-up, with links to each of the original statements.

Response to ‘unspeakable terror’: Prayer, ‘to do good’

On Oct. 2, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the bishops' conference, expressed “deep grief” after a deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas. He wrote: 

“We woke this morning and learned of yet another night filled with unspeakable terror, this time in the city of Las Vegas, and by all accounts, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. My heart and my prayers, and those of my brother bishops and all the members of the Church, go out to the victims of this tragedy and to the city of Las Vegas. At this time, we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering. In the end, the only response is to do good – for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light. May the Lord of all gentleness surround all those who are suffering from this evil, and for those who have been killed we pray, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”

Urge passage of Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36), which is expected to come to the House floor the first week of October. The bill, introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), proposes a ban on abortions starting at 20 weeks after fertilization.

In a Sept. 29 letter to the House, Cardinal Dolan called the 20-week ban a “common-sense reform.” He listed the reasons why: the expanding range of fetal viability, the “life-threatening dangers” to women undergoing abortions beyond 20 weeks, and the fact that mainstream clinics generally refuse to perform the risky procedures. “What does it say about us as a nation, if we will not act against abortions that even full-time abortionists find abhorrent?” Cardinal Dolan asked.

Read his letter here:

Urge passage of Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act

In Sept. 27 letters to the House and Senate in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the bishops asked Representatives and Senators to support passage of the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 2405 / S. 1823). The legislation would ensure fair and equal treatment of houses of worship damaged in natural disasters by enabling them to seek aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The letters noted that the "legislation is consistent with Supreme Court jurisprudence,” and explained that "houses of worship often play an irreplaceable role in the recovery of a community" after a natural disaster. Links to the letters can be found here:


Collect funds for victims of Irma, Harvey, Maria and Mexico earthquake

In response to the natural disasters that affected the people of Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and Mexico during the past four weeks, the bishops asked for special collections on behalf of the victims of Harvey in Texas in early September and a second special collection for victims of Irma the weekend of Sept. 23-24. These funds will be used to support Church relief agencies as they reach out to provide humanitarian aid in the form of water, food, shelter, and medical care, as well as long-term efforts to restore communities after widespread destruction, and to the USCCB for pastoral and reconstruction aid to the Church in the Caribbean and the United States.

In light of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria and multiple earthquakes in Mexico, the Office of National Collections also set up funds for both disasters to receive any contributions dioceses, parishes, or individuals wish to make. Contributed funds will be used to support the reconstruction and pastoral needs of the Church as well as humanitarian and recovery assistance through Catholic Charities USA (Hurricane Maria) and Catholic Relief Services (Mexico Earthquake).

Respond to Congressional questioning of judicial nominee

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, issued a statement in response to the line of questioning directed at a federal judicial nominee in early September. His statement noted that “rather than simply consider the professional achievements of a nominee for the federal judiciary, multiple senators challenged her fitness to serve due to her Catholic faith.” He added that the line of questioning harkened back “to a time in our country when anti-Catholic bigotry did distort our laws and civil order.” Read the whole statement here:

Respond to criticism of Church stand on immigration

James Rogers, chief communications officer for the U.S. bishops, responded to comments made in an interview by Steve Bannon, former chief strategist for the Trump Administration and now executive chairman of Breitbart News. Rogers called the Bannon’s attribution of “sordid motives” of statistics or financial gain “outrageous and insulting.” He clarified that the bishops’ positions on advocacy and care for migrants and refugees are central to Catholic teaching. “We are called not to politics or partisanship, but to love our neighbor. Let’s reject the forces of division that insist we make a false choice between our safety and our humanity. It is both possible and morally necessary to secure the border in a manner which provides security and a humane immigration policy.” Read the statement here:

Urge passage of Conscience Protection Act of 2017

On Sept. 6, the bishops joined 32 other major pro-life, religious, and health care organizations urging the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to pass the Conscience Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 644/S. 301). Signatories include numerous medical groups representing tens of thousands of health care professionals who object to abortion and are seeking legal protection to serve their patients in good conscience.

"Federal laws protecting conscientious objection to abortion have been approved for decades by Congresses and presidents of both parties. Even many 'pro-choice' Americans realize that the logic of their position requires them to respect a choice not to be involved in abortion," the letter stated. The signers noted that the proposed act addresses several "loopholes" in current federal laws that have allowed violations of conscience rights to continue.

Find links to the letters here:

Denounce termination of DACA

The bishops described as “reprehensible” the Trump Administration’s termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after six months. They noted it protected over 780,000 young people by granting them temporary employment authorization to work in the United States and a reprieve from deportation.

“DACA provided no legal status or government benefits,” the bishops noted. “We strongly urge Congress to act and immediately resume work toward a legislative solution.”

In a separate statement, the bishops also called on the Catholic faithful and all people of good will “to contact their representatives in Congress to urge the passage of the DREAM Act or similar legislation as a prompt, humane, and durable solution to this problem of greatest urgency.” Read that statement here:

Establish new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism

On Aug. 23, in response to the events in Charlottesville, Va., Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, president of the bishops’ conference, announced the creation of an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. The committee, headed by Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, will focus on addressing the sin of racism in society and the Church, and the urgent need to come together to find solutions.

"Recent events have exposed the extent to which the sin of racism continues to afflict our nation. The establishment of this new ad hoc committee will be wholly dedicated to engaging the Church and our society to work together in unity to challenge the sin of racism, to listen to persons who are suffering under this sin, and to come together in the love of Christ to know one another as brothers and sisters," Cardinal DiNardo explained.  

Read the statement here:

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