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U.S. Bishops’ Migration Chairman Responds to Outcome of Supreme Court Case on Migrant Protection Protocols

WASHINGTON—On June 21, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States dismissed Mayorkas v. Innovation Law Lab and ordered that the lower court’s judgement be vacated as moot. Additionally, the Court denied a motion to intervene filed by the States of Texas, Missouri, and Arizona. The case challenged the legality of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. Under MPP, first implemented in 2019, asylum seekers were returned to Mexico to await adjudication of their cases, where they regularly faced dangerous and inhumane conditions. The Court’s decision follows formal termination of the program by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on June 1, 2021.

On January 22, 2021, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), together with Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), filed an amicus curiae brief in the case. The brief argued that MPP is contrary to domestic and international law, which provide a legal right to seek asylum and protect against refoulement—the process of sending refugees and asylum seekers to any territory where they are likely to face threats to their life or freedom based on certain characteristics. The brief also maintained that MPP is contrary to Catholic social teaching, which calls for migrants to be welcomed and protected in accordance with their God-given dignity.

Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, issued the following statement:

“We welcome the final resolution of this case. At the same time, the Court’s decision should not be seen as legal vindication of MPP, which remains contrary to our laws and morals. Going forward, we must work as a nation to welcome the newcomer and respond to those in need with Christ-like compassion. This includes ending the misuse of Title 42 to turn away vulnerable asylum seekers, addressing the root causes of migration, and reforming our bogged down immigration system. It is possible to do these things while respecting the rule of law; we need only commit ourselves to the task.”

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Media Contacts:

Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities on “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”

WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected an opportunity to vote on the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” (H.R.18) by a vote of 209 to 218. H.R.18 would apply the Hyde Amendment government-wide and permanently prohibit taxpayer subsidies for abortion and abortion coverage. Kat Talalas with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities issued the following statement:

It is gravely wrong to force all Americans to pay for the killing of innocent babies with their tax dollars. The Hyde Amendment has saved at least 2.4 million lives by preventing taxpayer-funded abortion. Now, this 45-year-old bipartisan policy is under unprecedented threat with both the Administration and key members of Congress committed to eliminating it.

“Most Americans oppose using their tax dollars to pay for elective abortions, and the failure of the House of Representatives to pass H.R. 18 is unjustifiable. Congress must act to protect millions of babies and their mothers from the tragedy of abortion and protect American taxpayers from paying for the destruction of innocent human life.” 

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

USCCB President and International Justice and Peace Chairman Commend President Biden for Donation of COVID Vaccines to World’s Poorest Countries

WASHINGTON – Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace commended President Biden for his commitment to provide 500 million COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries. The amount was recently matched by the G-7 nations, bringing the total of vaccines to one billion.

Their full statement follows:

“As world leaders work together to help bring an end to this pandemic, we are grateful for President Biden’s leadership to aid the poor and vulnerable around the world who remain most at-risk.

“In his 2021 Easter message Pope Francis said, ‘Vaccines are an essential tool in this fight. I urge the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries.’ This gesture of global solidarity is timely, responding to those regions with the greatest need, particularly in Africa and South Asia.

“We encourage the Administration to partner with Catholic and other well established and broad reaching faith-based health care structures throughout the developing world to facilitate and strengthen vaccine distribution as we work together to save and restore lives.”

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

U.S. Bishops’ Chairman for International Justice and Peace Joins in Solidary with Pope Francis in Support of the Lebanese People

WASHINGTON –In April 2021, the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon issued an appeal to the international community to help the people of Lebanon to protect their rights and rebuild a country that is “a message of freedom and a witness to harmonious existence.” Cognizant of this ongoing turmoil, Pope Francis will meet with leaders of Lebanon’s Christian community on July 1 at the Vatican for a day of prayer and reflection. Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace voiced his support and prayer for the Lebanese patriarchs’ appeal and the meeting on July 1.

Bishop Malloy’s full statement follows:

“Given the ongoing and protracted political and economic crisis in Lebanon, on April 21, the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon issued an appeal to the international community to help the people of Lebanon: maintain their individual, collective, and national rights; overcome the economic crisis, protect Lebanese society’s social fabric, preserve Lebanon’s interreligious character, and support the Christian presence through Church institutions.

“Pope Francis has expressed his concern for Lebanon on several occasions. At Christmas 2020, the Holy Father sent a letter to the Lebanese people, acknowledging their suffering, yet recognized they can ‘bring to the whole world the sweet fragrance of mutual respect, coexistence and pluralism.’ In that letter, the Holy Father goes on to appeal to the international community to help Lebanon surmount its political and economic crises and ‘stand apart from conflicts and regional tensions.’

“This country has long been an example to the region and the world. I encourage the faithful and all those of good will to pray that the meeting of Lebanon’s Christian leaders with Pope Francis on July 1 will be met with divine grace, mercy, and direction at this difficult time in Lebanon’s history. It is vital that we support the work of Catholic organizations working there, such as Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Caritas Lebanon, Catholic Relief Services, and Aid to the Church in Need, who are courageously providing relief and hope.”

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Auxiliary Bishop George Sheltz

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Most Reverend George A. Sheltz, 75, from the Office of Auxiliary Bishop of Galveston-Houston.

The resignation was publicized in Washington on June 22, 2021 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Vote to Write a Document on the Meaning of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church

Statement of Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

“Last week, my brother bishops and I voted overwhelmingly to issue a teaching document on the beauty and power of the Eucharist. The doctrine committee of the bishops’ conference will now begin drafting this document and, in the months ahead, the bishops will continue our prayer and discernment through a series of regional meetings and consultations. In November, the bishops will gather to discuss the document draft.

“The Eucharist is the heart of the Church and the heart of our lives as Catholics. In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ himself draws near to each one of us personally and gathers us together as one family of God and one Body of Christ.

“As bishops, our desire is to deepen our people’s awareness of this great mystery of faith, and to awaken their amazement at this divine gift, in which we have communion with the living God. That is our pastoral purpose in writing this document.

“I invite everyone in the Church to pray for the bishops as we continue our dialogues and reflections. I pray that this will be a time for all of us in the Church to reflect on our own faith and readiness to receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.”

 

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi
202-541-3200

U.S. Bishops Approve Action Items on Their Agenda at the Spring General Assembly

WASHINGTON —The Catholic bishops of the U.S. met this week for their Spring General Assembly, June 16-18 in a virtual format. Their meeting agenda included votes on 9 action items.

Action Items #1 & #2:

During their meeting, the bishops held a canonical consultation on the causes of beatification and canonization of the servants of God Joseph Verbis Lafleur, diocesan priest, and Marinus (Leonard) LaRue, professed Brother of the Order of Saint Benedict. The bishops expressed their support for the advancement of the causes of beatification and canonization of both individuals at the diocesan level.

Action Item #3:

The Conference voted to approve the development of a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for the Native American and Alaska Native Ministry. It was approved with 223 votes in favor, 6 against, and 0 abstentions. The plan envisions encompassing the concerns of the Catholic Native Communities but also a dialogue to develop ways for evangelization and matters of Catholic Native social justice.

Action Items #4, 5 & 6:

The Latin Church members of the Conference voted to approve three translations by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) for use in the dioceses of the United States. They included a vote that concerned materials for the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, which was approved with 188 votes in favor, 2 against, and 0 abstentions. This memorial was added to the liturgical calendar in 2018 and is observed on the Monday following Pentecost. The second vote was on a collection of intercessions and prayers for the Liturgy of the Hours, which was likewise approved with 186 votes in favor, 3 against, and 1 abstention.

The retranslation of the Liturgy of the Hours is a large and ongoing project, and there are still several groups of texts that will need to be approved by the bishops in the coming years before the entire project can be completed. The bishops approved a new translation of the Order of Penance, with 182 votes in favor, 6 against, and 2 abstentions. This liturgical book is usually not needed for individual confessions but is particularly useful in the planning of parish penitential services. The votes for these three texts required affirmation by two-thirds of the Latin Church members and are subject to the confirmation of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Action Item #7:

The full body of bishops also voted to task the Committee on Doctrine to move forward with the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church. Requiring a simple majority vote for approval, the action item passed with 168 votes in favor, 55 against, and 6 abstentions.

Action Item #8:

Following the Vatican’s 2018 synod on young people, faith, and vocational discernment, Pope Francis issued a post-synodal apostolic exhortation on young people, Christus Vivit. The bishops voted with 222 in favor, 7 against, and 0 abstentions to approve of the drafting of a National Pastoral Framework for Youth and Young Adults that would be the United States’ response to the implementation of Christus Vivit. Considering this movement in the Church of engagement of young people, and in the wake of the COVID pandemic which continues to impact life in the world, the bishops believe is an opportune time for this framework to guide the Church’s efforts in the coming years.

Action Item #9:

The bishops voted to approve a National Pastoral Framework for Marriage and Family Life Ministry in the United States: Called to the Joy of Love, that was proposed by the Committee for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth. The framework is intended to assist dioceses as local pastoral planning and implementation continues to take place since the publication of the 2016 apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia. It provides guidelines for the pastoral accompaniment of married couples and families in every phase of life, drawing upon the teachings and recommendations contained in the apostolic exhortation. The proposal was approved with 212 votes in favor, 13 against, and 4 abstentions.

Recordings of the bishops’ general assembly and the press conferences may be accessed at www.usccb.org/meetings.

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Media Contacts:

Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

Bishop Chairmen Welcome Supreme Court Decision Protecting Freedom to Serve

WASHINGTON - Three chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) responded to yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. The statement of Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, 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 follows:

“Americans have long been a tolerant people who respect each other’s deepest differences. Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld that tradition, reinvigorating the First Amendment’s promise that religious believers can bring the full vitality of their faith to their charitable service and to the public square. This is a victory for the common good and for thousands of children who rely on religious foster care and adoption agencies to find a loving home with a mother and father, which is their right.

“We are grateful the ruling recognizes our right to witness in our works of mercy and God’s plan for the family. We Catholics must continue to practice what we preach. Let us show all our neighbors the truth of our beliefs by their beauty when they are put into action.”

The USCCB had filed an amicus curiae brief in the case in 2020, available here.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

U.S. Bishops’ Migration Chairman on the Observance of World Refugee Day (June 20)

WASHINGTON— For the last twenty years, World Refugee Day (June 20) has been observed annually in the United States and around the world to increase awareness of the plight of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. The United States has resettled an all-time low number of refugees during the last three consecutive years. As restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic loosen, together with a revised Presidential Determination for this year, there is now a path for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to regain its historical prominence. Currently, the world faces the largest forced migration crisis since World War II, with almost 80 million forcibly displaced people around the world and 25 million refugees among them, around half of whom are children.

In advance of this year’s World Refugee Day, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, issued the following statement:

“In the face of each refugee, we see the face of Christ, calling us to be a neighbor. It is this—our shared humanity—that should motivate us to respond to those in need, so as to imitate the Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel.

“We know that it will take time for our country to return the refugee program to the historic norms that have come to be expected in its efforts to assist refugees. However, my brother bishops and I remain committed to those who live each day seeking to free themselves from violence, poverty, and persecution. As Catholics, we recall that many in our own community came as strangers. We must never forget that experience, nor the related challenges of integration, which the Church is uniquely qualified to ease.  

“As Pope Francis teaches, ‘Being compassionate means recognizing the suffering of the other and taking immediate action to soothe, heal, and save. To be compassionate means to make room for that tenderness which today’s society so often asks us to repress.’ Today, we possess an opportunity to welcome the refugee with dignity and share the many blessings we enjoy as a country. Let us seize it.”

More information on World Refugee Day, including a list of prayer services around the country,  can be found on the Justice for Immigrants website.  

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Media Contacts:

Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

U.S. Bishops Conduct Canonical Consultation on Cause of Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God Joseph Verbis Lafleur, Diocesan Priest

WASHINGTON— At their annual spring Plenary Assembly, the bishops of the United States held a canonical consultation on the cause of beatification and canonization of the Servant of God Joseph Verbis Lafleur, diocesan priest.

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, and Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel of Lafayette in Louisiana, facilitated the discussion by the bishops. The bishops expressed support for the advancement of the cause of beatification and canonization on the diocesan level.

Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur was born on January 24, 1912 in Ville Platte, Louisiana, the fourth child of Agatha Dupre Lafleur and Valentine Lafleur. He spent his early years as a student at Mount Carmel Academy in Ville Platte. Early in life, he expressed an interest in the priesthood, and at the age of seven he became an altar boy. In 1926, the family moved to Opelousas, Louisiana, where Joseph Verbis attended school, but his real dream was to enter the seminary. He told his pastor at St. Landry Catholic Church of his desire and then entered St. Joseph's Minor Seminary in Saint Benedict, Louisiana. In 1927 he began his studies at St. Joseph's where he spent six years, followed by five years of study and prayer at the Notre Dame Major Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana before he was ordained to the priesthood.

Father Lafleur was ordained in 1938 and celebrated his first Solemn High Mass at St. Landry, his home parish, on April 5, 1938. He was sent to Saint Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Abbeville, Louisiana as assistant pastor. He was in Abbeville when he joined the Army Air Corps in 1941, just months before the United States became involved in World War II.

Father Lafleur was assigned to a unit at Albuquerque, New Mexico, in July 1941. Four months later the unit, the 19th Bombardment Group, arrived at Clark Field, some 60 miles from Manila in the Philippine Islands. On December 8, 1941, one day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Philippines came under heavy attack by Japan. Father Lafleur assisted the wounded and dying, actions that earned him the United States Army’s Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star.

Father Lafleur would later be taken captive by the Japanese and placed with other prisoners of war in various locations and camps but not without having been given opportunities for evacuation to take an easier path. Instead, he chose the path of charity for the good of the men entrusted to his spiritual care. It was in this context where he exercised countless acts of selflessness, charity, and generosity. He would exchange places with a POW to provide a priestly presence for a grueling forced work detail of 650 of his fellow POW’s who were taken for maintenance of a Japanese airstrip. Fearing liberation by American forces, the Japanese loaded the men onto a Hell Ship bound for Japan. The ship was torpedoed by an American submarine that did not realize the American prisoners of war were on board.

Survivors of the torpedo attack recall Father Lafleur’s heroic efforts as their ship was now on fire and sinking. Refusing to seek safety for his own life, Father Lafleur was last seen aiding prisoners to escape the sinking and burning ship, despite being fired upon by Japanese guards. He was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions immediately following the War.  A second Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart were awarded in October of 2017 for his heroic actions. 

On September 5, 2020, the Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana, led by Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel, officially opened Father Lafleur’s cause for beatification and canonization.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200