News and events

US bishops urge Senate to strike 'harmful' aspects of AHCA

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the Senate to strip out "harmful" provisions of the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1678) when the chamber takes it up for consideration or else to essentially start over on Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. "Even with efforts to improve the bill before passage, the American Health Care Act still contains major defects, particularly regarding changes to Medicaid that risk coverage and affordability for millions; it is deeply disappointing that the voices of those who will be most severely impacted were not heeded," said Bishop Dewane.

The bishops reiterated "key moral principles in health care reform,": access for all people to comprehensive, quality health care that is truly affordable, including extra consideration for pre-existing conditions; respect for life by preventing the use of federal funds for abortion or to purchase health care plans that cover it; and conscience protections. According to Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, the A.H.C.A.-proposed restructuring and cuts to Medicaid "will have devastating consequences for the many poor and vulnerable populations who rely on the program."

An Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center analysis indeed finds that the A.H.C.A.’s changes to federal taxes and health care benefits "would be very regressive." "Taking both tax reductions and benefit reductions into account, the average high-income family would be significantly better off and the average low-income family would be significantly worse off under the A.H.C.A."

Excerpted from --Kevin Clarke May 05, 2017 America Magazine

*Pope canonizes Fatima siblings May 13 *

Pope Francis will visit the Portuguese shrine at Fatima to canonize two Portuguese shepherd children who saw visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago. Francis had planned to travel to Fatima on May 12-13 to merely mark the anniversary of the apparitions, but with last month’s approval of the miracle needed to make siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto saints, he decided to use the occasion to canonize them.

The Marto siblings, along with their cousin, saw the Virgin Mary six times above an olive tree in 1917. The brother and sister died of pneumonia two years later, at the ages of 9 and 11. St. John Paul II beatified them in Fatima on May 13, 2000.

With the Marto children soon to be declared saints, all that remains to the miraculous events of Fatima is case of their cousin and co-visionary, Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, who became a Carmelite nun and died in 2005. In February, Portuguese church officials turned over 15,000 pages of testimony and other documentation for review to determine if she can be declared to have lived a life of heroic virtue, the first step in the Vatican’s complicated saint-making process.

Earth Day 2017 is April 22nd

64,000 locations on Earth available. Which one will you get?

NASA invites you to help us celebrate Earth Day 2017 by virtually adopting a piece of Earth as seen from space. Your personalized adoption certificate will feature data from NASA’s Earth-observing satellites for a randomly assigned location. Print it and share it, then explore other locations with our interactive map and get even more Earth science data from NASA’s Worldview website.

Climate change unleashed?

Washington (CNN) March 29, 2017

President Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order March 28, 2017 at the Environmental Protection Agency, which curbs the federal government's enforcement of climate regulations by putting American jobs above addressing climate change. Tuesday's order rescinds at least six Obama-era executive orders aimed at curbing climate change and regulating carbon emissions, including Obama's November 2013 executive order instructing the federal government to prepare for the impact of climate change and the September 2016 presidential memorandum that outlined the "growing threat to national security" that climate change poses. This executive order is also an attempt by the Trump administration to make good on its promise to bring more coal jobs back. The official said that Obama's regulations "were not helpful" to the coal industry and these reversals are the President honoring "a pledge he made to the coal industry." It is unclear whether Trump's order will actually bring back coal jobs, in part, because of market forces like the rise of clean energy that are already putting pressure on the coal industry.

The Birth of a ‘Peace Army’
*By Ellen Furnari *
Unarmed civilian protection, or UCP, is just what it sounds like: nonviolent action by civilians to protect other civilians from political violence. The peacekeeping practice is rooted in the call for a "peace army"—a Shanti Sena—by Mohandas Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, whom the pope referenced in his 2017 World Day of Peace message.
Peace Brigades International is … focused on specific strategies based on the principles and practices of nonviolence, the primacy of local actors, independence, and for many but not all organizations, nonpartisanship, in an organized, disciplined way.
Many organizations around the world are currently practicing this method of intervention, including Peace Brigades International, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Christian Peacemaker Teams, SweFOR, Meta Peace Team, Operation Dove, Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, and others.

--Excerpted from Sojourners, March 2017

A Letter from Chief Arvol Looking Horse
--Excerpted from The Catholic Worker, Jan/Feb, 2017

I, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Nations, ask you to understand an Indigenous perspective on what has happened in America … Our Ancestors foretold that water would someday be for sale. Back then this was hard to believe since water was so plentiful, so pure, and so full of energy, nutrition and spirit. Today we have to buy pure water, and even then the nutritional minerals have been taken out; it’s just empty liquid.
We fail to appreciate and honor our Sacred Sites, ripping out the minerals and gifts that lay underneath them as if Mother Earth were simply a resource instead of the source of life itself. Attacking nations and using more resources to carry out destruction in the name of peace is not the answer! We need to understand how all these decisions affect the global nation; we will not be immune to its repercussions. Allowing continual contamination of our food and land is affecting the way we think. A disease of the mind has set in on world leaders and many members of our global community with their belief that a solution of retaliation and destruction of peoples will bring peace.
We are the only species that is destroying the source of life, meaning Mother Earth, in the name of power, mineral resources, and ownership of land. We use chemicals and methods of warfare that are doing irreversible damage, and Mother Earth is becoming tired and cannot sustain any more impacts of war. As each day passes, I ask all nations to begin a global effort, and remember to give thanks for the sacred food that has been gifted to us by our Mother Earth … Starvation, war, and toxic waste have been the hallmark of the great myth of progress and development that ruled the last millennium.
To us as caretakers of the heart of Mother Earth, falls the responsibility of turning back the powers of destruction. You, yourself, are the one who must decide. You alone, and only you, can make this crucial choice … On your decision depends the fate of the entire world.
Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind. Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger? Know that you, yourself, are essential to this world. Understand both the blessing and the burden of that. You, yourself are desperately needed to save the soul of this world. Did you think you were put here for something less?

Breaking News January 25, 2016

The Standing Rock Tribe Will Go to Court Seeking to Invalidate the Executive Order & Camp Leaders Want ‘Mass Civil Disobedience’

According to NBC News the executive orders the new president signed "will make it easier for TransCanada to construct the Keystone XL pipeline and for Energy Transfer Partners to build the final uncompleted portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline."

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe will take legal action against President Trump’s executive order. In a statement, the tribe accused Trump of disregarding treaty rights and violating the law through his executive order on DAPL. Protest camp leaders released a statement calling for mass civil disobedience, saying, "… the heart of Standing Rock beats everywhere." They also called on people to divest from any banks helping fund the pipeline.

CNBC reported that Congress cannot overturn an executive order, and the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld all but two in U.S. history.

January 8-14, 2017 Creating a Culture of Encounter

For nearly a half century, the Catholic Church in the United States has celebrated National Migration Week, which is an opportunity for the Church to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and victims and survivors of human trafficking.

The theme for National Migration Week 2017 draws attention to Pope Francis' call to create a culture of encounter, and in doing so to look beyond our own needs and wants to those of others around us. In the homily given at his first Pentecost as pope, he emphasized the importance of encounter in the Christian faith: "For me this word is very important. Encounter with others. Why? Because faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others."

With respect to migrants, too often in our contemporary culture we fail to encounter them as persons, and instead look at them as others. We do not take the time to engage migrants in a meaningful way, but remain aloof to their presence and suspicious of their intentions. During this National Migration Week, let us all take the opportunity to engage migrants as children of God who are worthy of our attention and support.

-- From the United States Council of Catholic Bishops

*What Will 'Sanctuary' Look Like in 2017? * *San Antonio's Response to Hundreds of Freed Migrants Shows One Way *

By Sandi Villarreal 12-09-2016

Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently released nearly 500 women and children from Texas family detention centers, flooding San Antonio emergency shelters — and revealing the generosity of a city. "After this weekend’s events San Antonio may not be a sanctuary city on paper, but it’s a sanctuary city just by the actions of the community," said Amy Fischer, policy director for the RAICES in San Antonio.

Fischer said San Antonio residents, faith communities, and state and local government officials quickly rallied to provide the families with food, shelter, cell phone access, transportation, and more. San Antonio Mennonite Church immediately hosted more than 200 women and children on Dec. 4, offering blow up mattresses strewn throughout Sunday school rooms and the facility’s fellowship hall.

On a Facebook post Dec. 9, the church leadership described its motivation, writing, "Jesus very clearly teaches that we love and care for those who suffer as we love and care for God. 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' ... Our church building is not our own but a gift we are stewards of in order to welcome and love. Our resources and networks of people and energies are not our own, but vessels of God's love."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened multiple times to cut funding to cities and state schools that set up sanctuary status — even as a firm definition of the term remains elusive. Of the many questions advocates are exploring, Fischer says at the top are: "What does sanctuary mean in 2016? … What does it mean in 2017?"

Defining "sanctuary" cities:
There currently isn’t an established legal definition. "Sanctuary" policies may include providing services to individuals without regard to status, or declining to spend resources assisting with immigration enforcement, according to Lena Graber from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
Source: Immigrant Legal Resource Center, city audit reports (Janet Nguyen/Marketplace) -- Excerpted from Sojourners

Army Corps of Engineers delay pipeline for environmental study

The Army Corps of Engineers has told the Oceti tribe that it will halt work on the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline in order to conduct an environmental-impact study and shot down a permit for an easement on the property, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe announced.
In a statement, the tribe said it "wholeheartedly support[s]" the government’s decision, and thanked President Obama and the Justice Department. "We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause," the statement reads. "We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us, and the tens of thousands who donated time, talent, and money to our efforts to stand against this pipeline in the name of protecting our water."
Protesters have been camped out at the site in North Dakota for months to demonstrate against the $3.8 billion project, arguing it will destroy the environment and taint the drinking water used by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. As protesters have vowed to stay put, clashes with police have intensified in recent days. The Army Corps is seeking an alternative route for the project.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an annual holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. George Washington, the first president of the United States, proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1789.

There are claims that the first Thanksgiving Day was held in the city of El Paso, Texas in 1598. Another early event was held in 1619 in the Virginia Colony. Many people trace the origins of the modern Thanksgiving Day to the harvest celebration that the Pilgrims held in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. However, their first true thanksgiving was in 1623, when they gave thanks for rain that ended a drought. These early thanksgivings took the form of a special church service, rather than a feast.

Not everyone sees Thanksgiving Day as a cause for celebration. Each year since 1970, a group of Native Americans and their supporters have staged a protest for a National Day of Mourning at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts on Thanksgiving Day. American Indian Heritage Day is also observed at this time of the year.

The most widely practiced ritual is the Thanksgiving meal. This usually includes turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce, corn, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pies, but many feasts differ between families and cultures.

Vatican issues new document on Christian burial and cremation

2016-10-25 Vatican Radio (Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Tuesday published a new instruction on the burial of the dead and on the conservation of the ashes in cases of cremation. The instruction reiterates the long held view that the Church is not opposed to the practice of cremation, though it continues to recommend that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places. However the new document insists that ashes should not be kept in private houses and that the scattering of ashes on land or at sea is not permitted.

Please see the full English text of the new instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation.

Joining in productive political discourse:

The Catholic Church has launched a campaign called "Civilize It: Dignity beyond the Debate."
This non-partisan and non-sectarian movement is a message to all candidates of all parties and in all races that encourages:

  1. Civility: To reflect respect, to throw no stones, and to rise above it.
  2. Clarity: To align one’s political point of view with a formed conscience, which involves standing up for one’s convictions while humbly remaining open to learn more.
  3. Compassion: To encounter others with a tone and posture that say, "I see the dignity and goodness in you."

While people of faith and good will may disagree on a number of critical issues, Civilize It warns us not to sacrifice our own appreciation of God in the other person for a sense of self-righteousness about our own strongly held beliefs.

Please join in this campaign to push back against the mudslinging of negative campaign ads and one-upmanship of partisan attacks. Let us help define the tone set by our candidates at all levels of government and model respectful dialogue among ourselves. You can promote civility, clarity and compassion this election season by going to

CANNON BALL, N.D. — The simmering showdown here between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the company building the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline began as a legal battle. It has turned into a movement.

Over the past few weeks, thousands of Native Americans representing tribes from all over the country have traveled to this central North Dakota reservation to camp in a nearby meadow and show solidarity with a tribe they believe is once again receiving a raw deal at the hands of commercial interests and the U.S. government.

Frank White Bull, a tribal council member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, was overcome with emotion as he looked out over the ocean of brightly colored tepees and tents that have popped up on this impromptu 80-acre campground. "You think no one is going to help," said White Bull, 48. "But the people have shown us they’re here to help us. We made our stance and the Indian Nation heard us. It’s making us whole. It’s making us wanyi oyate. One nation. We’re not alone."

At issue for the tribes is the 1,172-mile Dakota Access pipeline — or DAPL — that runs through North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois, and has a capacity to transport more than 500,000 barrels of oil a day. The $3.8 billion pipeline now under construction was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cross under the Missouri River just a mile north of the reservation. That decision angered the tribe, because the Missouri is the source of water for the reservation’s 8,000 residents. Any leak, tribal leaders argue, would do immediate and irreparable harm. And tribal leaders point to what they see as a double standard, saying that the pipeline was originally planned to cross the Missouri north of Bismarck, the state capital, but was rerouted because of powerful opposition that did not want a threat to the water supply there.

The tribe says it also is fighting the pipeline’s path because even though it does not cross the reservation, it does traverse sacred territory taken away from the tribe in a series of treaties that were forced upon it over the past 150 years. The reservation sued the Corps in July, saying that the agency had not entered into any meaningful consultation with the tribe as required by law and that the Corps had ignored federal regulations governing environmental standards and historic preservation.

"The construction and operation of the pipeline, as authorized by the Corps, threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious and cultural significance to the Tribe," the lawsuit asserts. "This pipeline is going through huge swaths of ancestral land," said Dean DePountis, the tribe’s lawyer. "It would be like constructing a pipeline through Arlington Cemetery or under St. Patrick’s Cathedral."

--Excerpted from Showdown over oil pipeline becomes a national movement for Native Americans, by Joe Heim, The Washington Post.