Texas: Bishops Support True, Comprehensive Women’s Health

Forcing Planned Parenthood as Participant Risks Funding for All Women’s Health Programs and 130,000 Texas Women

The Catholic Church has always believed in and advocated for access to health care as a fundamental safeguard of human life.  In particular, the Church vocally supports women’s access to preventive medical services–such as screening and treatment for breast and ovarian cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis–as essential to comprehensive, affordable, and quality health care. Unfortunately, many abortion proponents insist on forcibly grafting contraception, sterilization, and abortion into our basic definitions of medical care, then criticizing anyone who objects as being an “opponent of women’s health care.”

While the Texas Catholic bishops do not support all of the services offered through the Women’s Health Program, they did support the provisions of Senate Bill 7, which prohibited Medicaid funds going to abortion providers or their affiliates.  There are currently more than 2,500 certified Women’s Health Providers in Texas, many of which offer comprehensive primary and preventative care to low income women and are not abortion providers or affiliated with abortion providers.

There are only 44 Planned Parenthood locations in the Women’s Health Program and many do not provide comprehensive health care–say, for example, mammograms or many common gynecological services–which are critical for women’s health.  It is the Texas bishops’ position that true women’s health services should be separated from services that are not health care: namely, contraception, sterilization, and abortion.

By insisting that the state of Texas cannot direct funds to thousands of providers statewide who offer true, comprehensive, women’s healthcare–and instead require Medicaid funds go to prop up 44 Planned Parenthood clinics–the federal government risks removing preventative health care from hundreds of thousands of women in Texas.

Read more…

Texas: Bishops Applaud State AG for Opposing Mandate

The Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas want to express their sincere appreciation to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and the six other state attorneys general for filing suit to block a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring religiously affiliated employers to provide contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization as part of employee insurance coverage.

In announcing that Texas was joining the suit, Attorney General Abbott concurred with the bishops’ argument that such government intrusion abrogates First Amendment rights of religious liberty and imposes an unprecedented burden on the consciences of those at religiously affiliated hospitals, schools, and social service agencies who consider such “services” immoral.   The suit serves to underscore the severity of this issue–especially following the White House’ last minute “accommodation” to shift the mandate from employers to health insurers.  As the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops and other religious denominations have argued, the offer does not accomplish its stated effect and does nothing to prevent this coverage from being integrated into religious employers’ overall health plans, nor from it being subsidized by the premiums paid by employers and employees.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court of Nebraska and joined by attorneys general from Nebraska, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.  The attorneys general argued  the HHS mandate would effectively force religious employers and organizations to drop health insurance coverage, and, as a result, spark an unnecessary increase in enrollments in state Medicaid programs and an concurrent increase in patients at state-subsidized facilities.

   

Read more…

Texas: Bishops Urge State Delegation to Oppose HHS Mandate

Texas’ Roman Catholic Bishops today urged the state’s Congressional delegation to strongly oppose new governmental mandates requiring religious employers to provide contraceptive, abortifacient, and sterilization services as part of their health care plans.

In a letter sent to all members of Congress from Texas, the bishops called “unconscionable and unnecessary” the new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requirement that is being attached as part of the Affordable Care Act of 2011.  The mandate has provoked a groundswell of controversy since its announcement two weeks ago.

“For religiously based social service agencies, health care providers, and educational institutions, this mandate abrogates our country’s foremost right to religious freedom,” wrote Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, and Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, on behalf of the Texas bishops.

The HHS mandate “. . .forces religious employers into bitter choices: to violate their religious convictions and consciences, to stop providing health coverage for their employees, or to end the charitable, medical, and educational services that for centuries have provided a crucial safety net to the poor and vulnerable of our society,” the Cardinal and Archbishop wrote.

The letter urges members of the Texas congressional delegation to co-sponsor the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act–co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Dan Boren (D-OK) in the U.S. House and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) in the U.S. Senate–that preserves freedom of conscience for those who provide or purchase health care coverage.

“These bills will prevent any mandates under the Affordable Care Act from effectively disregarding the freedom of conscience and brings law into line with the federal government’s long tradition of respect for those rights,” said the bishops. “Institutions that sponsor, purchase, or issue health plans should not be forced to contravene their religious principles just to provide insurance to their employees; nor should families be forced to violate their religious convictions to care for their children.”

The bishops have also asked Catholics across the state to contact their members of Congress  to voice their concerns.  The Texas Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Texas Bishops, has created a web site, www.TXcatholic.org/HHSMandate.asp, to assist in contacting members of Congress and the Obama Administration regarding protecting religious freedoms and supporting the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.  The Conference web site also includes links to the Bishops’ letters, blog posts, and news coverage on the issue.

Bishop Mulvey Defends Religious Liberty in Latest Texas Catholic Podcast

Corpus Christi Bishop Wm. Michael Mulvey explains how the Obama Administration’s forcing of religious employers to provide contraceptive and abortifacient coverage is an assault on religious liberty in the most recent episode of the Texas Catholic Podcast.

The podcast, available via iTunes or on the Texas Catholic Conference Audio Archive, was recorded during Bishop Mulvey’s homily at the Corpus Christi Cathedral on January 29, 2012.  In it, Bishop Mulvey stressed that his objections to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate were not political in nature, but were instead, “a matter of conscience. This is a matter of religious freedom.”

“The Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty,” Mulvey told parishioners.  “This is a dangerous path for our government to follow, as it violates one of the core values upon which our country was founded.”

Bishop Mulvey called upon the faithful to pray for the protection of religious liberty and contact their Congressmen to reverse the HHS ruling. He also used the opportunity to elaborate on the Church’s teaching on conscience and why its protection is intrinsically tied to the free practice of religion, emphasizing that conscience is being present to one’s self so that one “can hear the truth revealed by God in Jesus Christ and live and act by it.“

Listeners can access Bishop Mulvey’s letter on the mandate on the Diocese of Corpus Christi’s web site at www.diocesecc.org.

 

Texas: Bishops Applaud Sonogram Ruling

Today the Catholic Bishops of Texas applaud the decision of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to allow the state to enforce the sonogram law giving mothers access to the ultrasound images of their unborn children’s hearts beating.

The ruling overturned a lower court’s temporary order against enforcing the measure that requires doctors who perform abortions to show sonograms to patients, and describe the images and fetal heartbeat.  The Fifth Circuit’s ruling leaves the original case to proceed in the lower court.

The sonogram law was a high priority for the Bishops during 82nd Texas Legislature, because they believe it helps mothers recognize the humanity of their unborn children and choose life.  Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, was an ardent supporter of the legislation and today expressed gratitude for the court’s ruling.

“Providing mothers access to sonograms informs them about the risks and complications associated with abortion. These consultations save lives by educating mothers who may not realize that the child in their womb is exactly that – a unique, irreplaceable human life,” DiNardo said.

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of the Archdiocese of San Antonio  was particularly impressed by Chief Judge Edith H. Jones’ recognition of the state’s legitimate interests in protecting life.

“The court today acted to protect the smallest voices of those whom God already knows, alive in their mothers’ wombs,” the Archbishop said.

Texas: Texas Catholic Voice

January 6, 2012
Catholics called to National Migration Week, January 8-14
2012 National Migration WeekImmigration is a familiar issue in Texas, where immigrants are drawn by dreams of a better life or to escape the lawlessness that consumes many regions across the border. Who among us would not share such dreams? The failure of federal officials to embrace fair and comprehensive immigration reform, coupled with a history of inconsistent U.S. border enforcement, has led to exploitation of migrant families and simmering frustration across the country.

Houston Priest to lead new U.S. ordinariate for former Anglicans
Ordinariate press conference

In response to numerous requests, Pope Benedict XVI has established an ordinariate for Anglican groups and clergy across the United States who wish to become Catholic. The Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter will be based in Houston, Texas. The Pope also has named a Catholic priest serving in Houston and a former Episcopal bishop, Reverend Jeffrey N. Steenson, to lead the ordinariate. Cardinal DiNardo, Bishop Vann, and Father Steenson, participated in a press conference on January 2, you can watch it online here(Photo by Louise Kelly, Texas Catholic Herald)
Pope Emphasizes Educating Young People in Justice and Peace
Pope Benedict XVI reiterated the importance of helping youth form and build their conscienes in truth during his homily on the January 1 celebration of the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. ”In the face of the shadows that obscure the horizon of today’s world, to assume responsibility for educating young people in knowledge of the truth, in fundamental values and virtues, is to look to the future with hope,” he said. “It is essentially about helping infants, children and adolescents to develop a personality that combines a profound sense of justice with respect for their neighbour, with a capacity to address conflicts without arrogance, with the inner strength to bear witness to good, even when it involves sacrifice, with forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Two U.S. Archbishops To Be Elevated to Cardinals
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, vice-president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), congratulated Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, 61, and Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore, 72, on being named cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI, January 6. They will be officially elevated to the College of Cardinals, February 18, in Rome. “This is an honor for these outstanding church leaders as well as an honor for the Church in the United States,” Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville said.“As men of prayer, wisdom and dedication, they will bring many talents and graces to their new roles as advisors to the Holy Father.”

Pastoral Messages from the Texas Bishops
Bishop Kevin Vann
Diocese of Fort Worth
The Texas Catholic Voice is the E-Newsletter of the Texas Catholic Conference - The Official Public Policy Voice of the Texas Bishops.

 

   

Read more…

Texas: Newsletter

Thank You For Your Voice
The Texas Catholic Conference thanks you for your prayers your voice on behalf of the most poor and vulnerable. You have helped bring the peace on Earth that we pray for during this Advent season. We look forward to advocating with you for life, justice, and peace in the years to come, and we wish you a blessed Advent season and a joyful Christmas.

 
Bishops Express Solidarity with Migrants
33 Hispanic Bishops, including several Texas Bishops, issued a letter on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12, expressing their prayers for migrants in our nation and in the world. The bishops thanked the migrant community for their contributions to the welfare of our nation and assured migrants that they will continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. You can watch a news clip on the letter featuring Bishop Flores here.

Read More…

Report Shows Decline in Death Penalty
Thirteen prisoners executed by the state of Texas in 2011 are the fewest since 1996—and well below the record of 40 executions set in 2000—according to a new report from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. The TCADP report corresponds to national trends indicating that fewer death penalty sentences are being handed out nationwide.

 

Texas Dioceses Celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, Protectress of the Unborn
Cristo Rey Church in Beaumont celebrates the feast of our Lady of GuadalupeDioceses throughout the state of Texas hosted grand celebrations in early December as a way of honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe during her December 12 feast day. In many ways, these celebrations focus on the beauty of her role as Queen of Mexico and Patroness of the Americas. Prayers focused on much-needed peace in Mexico and family reunification of immigrants on both sides of the border.

TCC Podcast Features Remarks from Death Penalty Dialogue
Bishop Oscar Cantu of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, as well as San Antonio pastor Fr. Larry Christian, recently participated in a Religious Leaders Dialogue on the Death Penalty, held at Trinity University in San Antonio this past October. Bishop Cantu encouraged listeners to take the abolition message to the public square, while Fr. Christian shared insights on how Church teaching on the death penalty has impacted him throughout his life. You can listen to their remarks on the TCC podcast.

You can encourage your friends and family to advocate against the death penalty in Texas by recommending that they subscribe to the Texas Catholic Voice, simply direct them to the Voice sign-up page here.

Capitol Comments: Protecting Catholic Religious Liberty
It’s hard to believe that a nation founded two centuries ago upon principles of religious freedom and tolerance must fight to retain those principles today. Nevertheless, here we are, as a country, confronting those who seek to stifle religious values and practice from public life. For some time, we have witnessed a steady erosion of religious liberty in the face of a growing cultural and political secularism.  As a Church, we live our faith through works of education, health care, and charity for the poor and disadvantaged.  Increasingly, however, we find ourselves having to fend off those who want to impose demands or restrictions that go against our fundamental beliefs.

HHS Protects Kids in Vetoing FDA Plan B Decision
USCCB Media Blog
Health and Human Services (HHS) acted to protect kids Dec. 7 when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejected a recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to let stores sell powerful hormonal drugs to children over the counter.

Texas: Report Shows Decline in Death Penalty

Thirteen prisoners executed by the state of Texas in 2011 are the fewest since 1996—and well below the record of 40 executions set in 2000—according to a new report from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

 

The TCADP report corresponds to national trends indicating that fewer death penalty sentences are being handed out nationwide—falling below 100 (to 78) for the first time since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

 

TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé attributed the drop to five death row inmates receiving stays of execution this year and an undeniable decrease of death sentences handed down by Texas juries since 2003. Only eight death sentences were issued this year.

 

Analysts speculate that public concerns about the racial fairness, costs, and growing numbers of life-without-parole sentences have all played a role in a steep decline in the number of executions and death penalty sentences in the United States.  For Texas, in particular, the high-profile cases of Hank Skinner and of Cameron Todd Willingham have led some to raise serious questions about the fairness and accountability of the judicial process for death penalty cases.

 

Jeffery R. Patterson, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference, said that the TCADP Report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2011: The Year in Review, was welcome news.

Read more…

   

Read more…

Texas: A Shopping We Will Go . . .

By: Jennifer Carr Allmon

 

“Every economic decision…must be judged in light of whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person…the person is sacred, the clearest reflection of God among us. Thus the economy should serve people, not the other way around.”

 

– US Bishops, Economic Justice for All

Advent has arrived and brought with it the extreme shopping that our culture associates with Christmas preparation.  As much as we try to resist the temptation, the draw of mall is enticing.  The other day I told my husband I needed to run out to get a few things at the store and my two-year-old immediately grabbed her play purse and ran to the door giggling and shouting, “I’m going shopping!”  Granted, I was running to HEB for eggs and milk, which she enjoys because she faces Mommy in the shopping cart and we talk, but it still made me reflect on what messages we’re sending our little ones about shopping.

 

The next day while reading The North Texas Catholic, I came across a dapper picture of Bishop Vann modeling a WORN scarf from Catholic Charities of Fort Worth (CCFW). I felt that tug of the Holy Spirit reminding me of a better shopping message for my daughter.   WORN is a socially-conscious business venture of CCFW. The mission of WORN is to provide refugee women living in the United States with an opportunity to utilize the traditional skill of knitting to increase their families’ household income, thus empowering them to rise above poverty.

Read more…

Texas: Religious Liberty Under Attack

By Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer, Bishop of the Diocese of San Angelo

Because of recent decisions and actions by the Obama administration and other government offices, the U.S. Catholic bishops are concerned that religious liberty—the First Freedom is under attack. The U.S. Catholic bishops clearly state that we need to safeguard religious liberty inherent in the dignity of the human person. We recognized our need to protect this foundational principle of our country one that has been enshrined in the United States Constitution, further enumerated in the First Amendment, and explicitly extended to all U.S. citizens. The Framers of the Constitution themselves understood this “First Freedom” to be based on the norms inherent in Natural Law—namely, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these rights are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

This basic right, in its many and varied applications for Christians and people of faith, is now increasingly and in unprecedented ways under assault in America. This is most particularly so in an increasing number of federal government programs or policies that would infringe upon the right of conscience of people of faith or otherwise harm the foundational principle of religious liberty.

To address this urgent and critical situation, the U.S. Catholic bishops, guided by the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Most Reverend Archbishop Timothy Dolan, have set up a special committee to address these abuses of religious liberty. For the rest of this article I share with you the light and direction given to the bishops and the Catholic people of our country to address this critical issue—Religious Liberty—the First Freedom is under attack.

Linked to these life issues mentioned by Archbishop Dolan, I add another concern of the bishops. Recently the Department of Health and Human Services released fewer Funding Opportunity announcements for initiatives that promote healthy marriages—as long as those projects do not include abstinence- education programs. Preventing funding for abstinence programs will especially prevent youth from receiving sexual—abstinence kills, and this is indeed very troubling as it completely ignores the body of research that now link teen sex to future divorce in marriage. This is just another number of blows against abstinence education by the presidential administration.

Texas: City Ordinance Compels False and Misleading Speech in Violation of First Amendment

Today, on behalf of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin and three Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs), Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against the City of Austin over its unconstitutional  ordinance  requiring PRCs to post signs at their entrances stating what services they do not provide, such as abortions and birth control drugs and devices. This ordinance compelling speech is part of a coordinated nationwide campaign by NARAL Pro-Choice America specifically designed to deter women from visiting PRCs and to restrict their free speech rights.

The decision by the Austin City Council to compel false and misleading speech is a clear violation of the pregnancy centers’ constitutional rights and is a despicable ploy to deter women and families from using these charitable centers,‖ said  Jonathan Saenz, director of Legislative Affairs at Liberty Institute. Click here to read the full press release.

Texas Bishops Disappointed in Federal Court Ruling on Sonogram Law

Texas’ Catholic bishops are disappointed at the federal district court’s recent  ruling that the state’s sonogram law is unconstitutional.

Especially troubling was the ruling’s apparent pitting of a doctor’s claims to free speech against a woman’s right to comprehensive medical information before consenting to an irrevocable medical procedure affecting her and her unborn child.  The Sonogram Law accords with common standards of informed medical consent for even minor medical procedures.  Prior to the Sonogram Law, mothers seldom underwent a thorough medical consultation with a doctor–much less made use of the benefits of the latest sonogram technologies–before making the painful decision to abort their child.  The intent of the Sonogram Law continues to be to inform a mother completely about the life in her womb in order to reconsider her decision to end that life.

The TCC applauds state officials’ intent to appeal the ruling, and fully anticipates that the decision will be overturned by the appellate court.

The Texas Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Bishops of Texas. The primary purpose of the Conference is to encourage and foster cooperation and communication among the dioceses and the ministries of the Catholic Church in Texas.

Texas: Conscience and Life

“It is not human for a government that claims to protect what is good in human life and society to stand indifferent to the choice between the life and death of an unborn child. At the very least, the government should promote the option for life.”

-Bishop Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville

The first special session of the 82nd legislature adjourned sine die on Wednesday, June 29, with the passage of yet another pro-life provision in place. A ban on taxpayer funding for abortion was passed in SB 7, which will save the lives of thousands of unborn children in Texas.

During the regular session, we advocated for legislation that would prohibit taxpayer funding for abortion, and were disappointed to see it fail. This practice fails to protect the conscience of taxpayers, who, polls and petitions show, overwhelmingly disapprove of their tax dollars paying for abortions.

“Healthcare must be life-affirming and should seek to be life-saving. Abortion, which takes the life of an innocent child and devastates all those involved, most especially the mother, is not healthcare. We stand ready to offer her hope in whatever difficult situation she faces,” testified Marie Seale, Director of the Office of Pro-Life Activities and Chaste Living for the Catholic Diocese of Austin. “The mothers in our community deserve better than abortion, they deserve true support that will result in a better life situation, not the end of the life of their child.”

We advocated, along with several other partners, for the language to be reintroduced during the special session. With the help of faithful citizens across the state, who prayed and advocated on this issue, the language has been passed and now goes to the Governor.

This victory comes on the heels of major gains during the regular legislative session included the passage of a legislation that provides mothers with access to their sonogram, and allow for the creation of a “Choose Life” license plate.

As faithful citizens we are called to speak on behalf of those who are voiceless. Texas is blessed to see many victories for the vulnerable unborn in the womb from the regular and special session of Texas’ 82nd legislature.

Texas: Sanctuary Cities Legislation Fails to Pass

The Texas Senate and House have adjourned the special session, and we at the Texas Catholic Conference celebrated with several partners on the failure of SB 9, the “Sanctuary cities” bill, to pass during the special session.

The Sanctuary Cities legislation would require local law enforcement and other city employees to verify immigration status for anyone they suspect may be undocumented. This is bad policy because it would be difficult for local law enforcement to enforce complex federal immigration law, and too costly for state and local law enforcement to receive the extensive training that federal immigration agents undergo. Local law enforcement investigates and prosecutes local criminal activity; adding immigration enforcement to their duties would divert resources away from their responsibilities fighting crime.

Furthermore, the legislation threatens public safety by undermining the relationship between the local police and the communities they serve. If a victim or a witness to a crime is afraid that his or her status will be determined by law enforcement, he or she may choose not to report criminal activity in the community. You can read more about the legislation in our testimony on this issue here and our policy paper here.

Governor Perry declared Sanctuary Cities legislation as an emergency item during the regular and special sessions of the 82nd Texas legislature. Hundreds of advocates came to the Capitol during the 30-day special session to ask lawmakers to reject this legislation, including local law enforcement, business owners, workers, students, families and human rights advocates, and faith leaders.

Fr. Stephen Jasso, TOR, the pastor of All Saints Church on Fort Worth’s North Side in the Diocese of Fort Worth, was one of those advocates. Fr. Jasso testified during the regular session as well, and participated in a celebratory press conference on June 29, after the legislature adjourned sine die.

“The Voice of the people was heard,” said Fr. Jasso. “We can thank God and the leadership of the groups that advocated with us. Together we can make a difference. Texas can become greater because we are united.”

Fr. Jasso also spoke of the sacrifices that advocates made to attend the hearings, stating that several people arrived early in the morning and stayed until after midnight on the following day to testify. “When I heard about this group I asked Bishop Vann if I could participate. He said that I should do whatever I can to help accomplish this mission.”

Texas: Sine Die

Weekly Legislative Update

This Wednesday, June 29th, the Texas Legislature adjourned sine die. We are grateful for two major victories during this 30-day special session – the passage of a ban on taxpayer funding for abortion and the failure of Sanctuary Cities legislation to pass. Unfortunately legislation that will restrict access to driver’s licenses was added to a fiscal matters bill during this special session, an effort that threatens the public safety of all Texans. Legislation to establish smoke-free policies also failed. For a full report on the outcomes of the special and regular sessions, click here.
Read More:
Lawmakers Protect Taxpayer Conscience Rights, Pass Ban on Taxpayer Funding for Abortion
Sanctuary Cities Legislation Fails to Pass During Special Session

Fr. Stephen Jasso of the Diocese of Fort Worth thanks advocates for their
efforts in defeating Sanctuary cities
legislation
We wish to thank everyone who took the time to advocate on behalf of the Catholic church and the issues important to our faith. We hope to continue to rely upon you and assist you in fulfilling your call to faithful citizenship. This Independence Day weekend, we thank God that we call the United States of America our home. We pray for guidance and discernment as we engage in the political process. We pray for our national and state leaders, that they will always seek to protect human life and dignity and work for the common good of all. We also thank God for the gracious blessing of all of you on our email list, who have prayed and advocated for a better state and nation.

As we transition into the interim (the time between legislative sessions), our Texas Catholic Voice e-newsletter will be delivered once every two weeks. The Voice will include news updates from us, as well as news from the dioceses of Texas, the US Bishops, and more. We’ll also continue to send action alerts on federal issues (like the alert below).

Action Alert: Tell the Administration and Congress to Protect the Poor and Vulnerable
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops urges Congress and the Administration to protect programs for poor and vulnerable persons during deficit reduction negotiations that are happening this week. Fiscal responsibility is important and our current budget deficit must be addressed; however, a just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. A balanced approach requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly. Click here to learn more about take action!

News

Archbishop García-Siller Receives Pallium in Rome
(Photo credit: Deacon Pat Rodgers,
Archdiocese of San Antonio)
Below you can find news related to our public policy positions, general news about the Catholic Church, and updates on events in the Dioceses of Texas.

Archbishop García-Siller Receives Pallium in Rome
All archbishops appointed in the past year participate in a Pallium Mass, during which they receive a Pallium – a sign of an archbishop’s “communion with the Pope and a sign of their pastoral responsibility as shepherds (CNS)”. Archbishop García-Siller was one of four archbishops who received a Pallium from Pope Benedict this week: So what is the Pallium? One man with over 25 years of experience wearing one, Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles, explains on his blog: It is a circular band about 2″ wide, worn about the neck and having two pendants–one hanging down in front and one behind. It is worn over the chasuble at Mass. Every February two lambs are blessed each year and their white wool is used to make the Pallium. The wool is presented to the Pope, and Sisters then make the Pallium for the new Archbishops. … The new Palliums are solemnly blessed on the eve of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and are kept in a special silver-gilt container in front of the Main Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica. Read Full Story >>
View pictures from the Pallium ceremony via the Archdiocese of San Antonio web page here, and also from Catholic News Services’ facebook album here.
Region’s Bishops Express Concern Over Immigrants Deaths, Call Governments to Action
Catholic bishops of the North and Central American region and the Caribbean, who are in charge of the pastoral care of migrants, gathered in San Jose, Costa Rica, June 1-3, 2011. A joint declaration after the meeting was made public June 30. The prelates, representing the bishops’ conferences of the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panamá, Honduras and Guatemala, as well as CELAM (Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Latin America) and CARITAS International gathered to express solidarity and concern over the plight of immigrants in the Hemisphere. They were joined by religious and lay experts on issues of migration.

“We continue to witness great suffering among migrants in our countries and regions, who are the victims of exploitation and abuse from various elements of society (public officials, unscrupulous employers and criminal organizations),” the bishops of the region said in their statement. “We again call upon our governments to take responsibility for the legal protection of migrants, including those searching for work, asylum-seekers, refugees, and victims of human trafficking. We ask for special protection for families, women and children.” Read Full Story >>

Life Issues Forum: Light and Shadows in the Cause of Life
Susan Wills, Assistant Director for Education & Outreach for the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities discusses the decline in abortion rates in the US as reported in Obstetrics & Gynecology and the need to continue to promote a Culture of Life at the end of life: There was great news this week on the abortion front. The journal Obstetrics & Gynecology reports that abortion rates in the United States continue their steady decline—an 8 percent drop between 2000 and 2008, to under 20 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. The rate in 1981 stood at almost 30 abortions per 1,000 women, so the abortion rate has declined by one-third in the past three decades. Even more encouraging, teens continue to lead the way. Abortion rates among teens aged 15 to 17 dropped an impressive 22 percent between 2000 and 2008, and a remarkable 62 percent since 1984. Much of the decline can reasonably be attributed to teens choosing to remain chaste throughout their high school years. Chastity remains the key, because one in three sexually-active girls (including those contracepting) will become pregnant within 24 months of initiating sexual activity. Read Full Story >>

Bishops Welcome Standards to Reduce Hazardous Emissions, Cite Protection of Human Life and God’s Creation
TCC advocates should be familiar with our advocacy supporting consumption advisories regarding mercury levels in fish. Care for creation is intrinsically tied to our call to protect the most vulnerable and promote the common good: The U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference welcomed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed standards for mercury and air toxics produced by power plants, according to a June 20 comment filed with the Environmental Protection Agency, by Bishop Stephen Blaire, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “Such standards should protect the health and welfare of all people, especially the most vulnerable members of our society, including unborn and other young children, from harmful exposure to toxic air pollution emitted from power plants,” said Bishop Blaire. Read Full Story >>

Diocesan Events Around the State

Family Fiesta of Life Conference – Archdiocese of San Antonio
Attention, Families! The Archdiocese of San Antonio’s Family Fiesta of Life Conference will take place July 29-30, at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church. Friday night’s program begins with an hour of praise and worship with Christian musicians “Body of Christ Ministries,” followed by Eucharist Adoration and Benediction. The evening will close with a sneak preview of the movie “Courageous,” scheduled for release in theaters this September. Saturday’s program includes family Mass with Bishop Oscar Cantu and presentations by Patrick Coffin, emcee and host of national radio show Catholic Answers LIVE and Vicki Thorne, international speaker and founder of Project Rachel. Brian Butler, a regular speaker on Theology of the Body for Teens, will meet and connect with teenagers. Click here to learn more.

El Congreso de la Familia – Arquidiócesis de San Antonio
¡Atención, Familias!El Congreso de la Familia se llevará a cabo el próximo 9 de julio en el Centro de Convenciones Henry B. Gonzalez. El programa incluye la Santa Misa con nuestro Arzobispo Gustavo Garcia Siller y presentaciones del Padre Guadalupe Santos de Guadalajara, México, Armando Duarte, Director del Instituto de la Familia Juan Pablo II de México, Jake Samour, Director de la Pastoral de Matrimonios y Vida Familiar de la Arquidiócesis, Valentina Alazraky de Roma, Italia (testigo en la Beatificación de Juan Pablo II), Lic. Rosa Romo de Roma, Italia, y en concierto Nana Angarita. Abrá adoración del Santísimo, confesiones, oración de sanación familiar, consejería matrimonial y mucho más. Los niños y jóvenes podrán tomar parte en actividades organizadas para ellos. Donativo: Adulto $25/Jóvenes y niños $10; preventa Adultos $20. Para más información llame al (830) 388-3009. Obtenga más información aquí.

Texas: Lawmakers Protect Taxpayer Conscience Rights, Pass Ban on Taxpayer Funding f

“It is not human for a government that claims to protect what is good in human life and society to stand indifferent to the choice between the life and death of an unborn child. At the very least, the government should promote the option for life.”

-Bishop Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville

The first special session of the 82nd legislature adjourned sine die on Wednesday, June 29, with the passage of yet another pro-life provision in place. A ban on taxpayer funding for abortion was passed in SB 7, which will save the lives of thousands of unborn children in Texas.

During the regular session, we advocated for legislation that would prohibit taxpayer funding for abortion, and were disappointed to see it fail. This practice fails to protect the conscience of taxpayers, who, polls and petitions show, overwhelmingly disapprove of their tax dollars paying for abortions.

“Healthcare must be life-affirming and should seek to be life-saving. Abortion, which takes the life of an innocent child and devastates all those involved, most especially the mother, is not healthcare. We stand ready to offer her hope in whatever difficult situation she faces,” testified Marie Seale, Director of the Office of Pro-Life Activities and Chaste Living for the Catholic Diocese of Austin. “The mothers in our community deserve better than abortion, they deserve true support that will result in a better life situation, not the end of the life of their child.”

We advocated, along with several other partners, for the language to be reintroduced during the special session. With the help of faithful citizens across the state, who prayed and advocated on this issue, the language has been passed and now goes to the Governor.

This victory comes on the heels of major gains during the regular legislative session included the passage of a legislation that provides mothers with access to their sonogram, and allow for the creation of a “Choose Life” license plate.

As faithful citizens we are called to speak on behalf of those who are voiceless. Texas is blessed to see many victories for the vulnerable unborn in the womb from the regular and special session of Texas’ 82nd legislature.

Texas: Sine Die

The Texas House and Senate are adjourned Sine Die. We will have an updated outcomes report available in a few days. Thanks to everyone who advocated on behalf of the policy priorities of the Texas Bishops.

Texas: Weekly Update

Weekly Legislative Update

This week the Texas Senate passed out SB 9, the Sanctuary Cities bill. Our Executive Director, Jeff Patterson, provided testimony to the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee opposing SB 9, the so-called “Sanctuary City” bill. We are deeply disappointed in the Senate’s passage of this bill, which threatens public safety and endangers the civil and constitutional rights of Texas residents and could encourage discrimination, co-opt local law enforcement, and scapegoat immigrants who are valuable contributors to our society and our state. Solutions to our nation’s broken immigration system must be implemented through federal comprehensive immigration reform. HB 9, the House version of a sanctuary cities bill was referred to the House committee on State Affairs. These are not identical bills, so the bills must be passed in both chambers.

The deadline for the Governor to veto bills from the regular session is Sunday, June 19. We will post an update to our web site on Monday with any news on vetos for any bills that the Texas Catholic Conference is tracking. We hope to have our final outcomes report available during the following week.

Action Alert: Ask your Representative to Vote to Adopt the Conference Committee Report on SB 7 in order to stop Taxpayer Funding for Abortion

We urge all House members to vote to adopt the conference committee report on SB 7. This omnibus health care bill includes critical amendments to ban taxpayer funding for abortion and increase Click here to read the full alert.

Federal Action Alert: Support Ban on Patenting of Human Beings

The U.S. House of Representatives is set to consider the America Invents Act (H.R. 1249), a bill to update patent law. On the floor, the Manager’s Amendment is expected to include a provision to prohibit the patenting of a human organism:“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no patent may issue on a claim directed to or encompassing a human organism.”

This provision simply codifies in permanent law a policy that has been in appropriations law since fiscal year 2004, through an amendment that was offered by Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) with the strong support of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Weldon amendment, in turn, reflects a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) policy in place since 1987 against patenting any human organism. It is expected that H.R. 1249 could be considered on the House floor as early as Wednesday, June 15. Click here to access the full alert from the NCHLA web site.

Federal Action Alert: Help Block the Expansion of E-Verify in the Absence of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Some in Congress are now calling for the mandatory expansion of E-Verify – a largely voluntary program which allows employers to electronically verify workers’ employment eligibility with Government databases. The problem is that unless E-Verify’s expansion is undertaken in the context of comprehensive immigration reform, it will hurt U.S. workers and our already weakened economy. Unless Congress legalizes unauthorized immigrants, mandatory E-Verify will begin with a handicap of 8 million unauthorized workers who will be driven further into the underground economy, hurting both the U.S. economy and workers by decreasing federal tax revenue by more than $17.3 billion over ten years, creating an unequal workplace, and lowering labor standards for all workers. And, because of well-documented flaws in the Government databases upon which it relies, E-Verify does not detect over half of the undocumented workers entered in the system, yet results in false positives for hundreds of thousands of American workers.

For these reasons, we urge you to let your Senators and Members know that unless and until the E-Verify program is improved and undertaken in the context of comprehensive immigration reform, you oppose its expansion and mandatory implementation. Click here to access the full alert from the Justice for Immigrants web site.

Bill Updates

SB 9: Passed from the Senate, received in the House, but not yet referred to committee
SB 7: The vote to adopt the conference committee report should take place on Tuesday and the Bishops continue to urge the adoption of a conference committee report that prevents taxpayer funding for nearly 1,000 abortions annually.
Bill Reports
We read each bill and determine if the proposed legislation is one that we should support or oppose based on the Bishops’ legislative agenda. We will continue to add new bills to the report as well as edit reports as we have more information available. Below you can find a list of legislation that we have added to our site this week. You can view our entire bill report list here.

There were no new bills added this week.

Back to top

News

Bishops Approve Physician-Assisted Suicide Statement; Call on Catholics to Support the Dying, Ensure Their Legal Protection
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved a policy statement on physician-assisted suicide at its Spring General Assembly in Seattle on June 16. The statement, To Live Each Day with Dignity, passed with a vote of 191-1. It marks the first time the full body of bishops has issued a statement devoted to this issue. The full text of the statement will be available online at www.usccb.org/toliveeachday, along with fact sheets and articles on the issue, relevant Church documents, and prayers for use with those who are ill. The statement speaks of the hardships and fears of patients facing terminal illness and the importance of life-affirming palliative care. It cites the Church’s concern for those who are tempted to commit suicide, its opposition to physician-assisted suicide, and the consistency of this stance with the principle of equal and inherent human rights and the ethical principles of the medical profession. Read Full Story >>

Bishops’ Committee Releases Second Video in Defense of Marriage Initiative
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage has released the second of five videos for the promotion and protection of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Entitled Made for Life, the newly released video features real married couples reflecting on topics related to the gift of children, the indispensible place of fathers and mothers, and sexual difference.

“Our culture is one that often forgets the sacred gift of the child, and in so doing it also fails to recognize the vital importance of a mother and a father together for the life and upbringing of that child,” said Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, California, chairman of the Committee. “In contemporary debates about the meaning of marriage, the rights and dignity of the child should be at the forefront. The video Made for Life builds on the first video Made for Each Other and invites a renewed appreciation for the child, for mothers and fathers, and for the bond between love and life in marriage—a bond only possible through the sexual difference of husband and wife. The video also addresses a real gap today in public awareness, namely, the close connection between a culture of life and a culture that promotes and protects marriage. The two cannot be separated.”

Texas: Opposition to “Sanctuary Bill”

This morning the Texas Catholic Conference Executive Director provided testimony to the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee opposing SB 9, the so-called “Sanctuary City” bill.  This bill threatens public safety and endangers the civil and constitutional rights of Texas residents. It is an expensive way to make our cities less safe. This bill could encourage discrimination, co-opt local law enforcement, and scapegoat immigrants who are valuable contributors to our society and our state. Solutions to our nation’s broken immigration system must be implemented through federal comprehensive immigration reform. Piecemeal policies such as SB 9 only serve to separate and weaken the communities in our state.

Good morning Mr. Chairman and members, my name is Jeffery Patterson and I am the executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference. The TCC is the statewide association of the 15 Roman Catholic dioceses in our state and it is our responsibility to advocate for the public policy positions of the active Bishops of Texas. Thank you for the opportunity to share our opposition to SB 9.

For many of the same reasons you have heard throughout the witness testimony today, the Catholic Bishops of Texas are opposed to Senate Bill 9, and remain concerned about the effects that this “Sanctuaries Cities” legislation will have on the safety, dignity, and the civic trust of ethnic communities in this state.

It is not within the jurisdiction of local law enforcement agencies–nor are local officers appropriately trained–to enforce complex federal immigration law.  Enforcement of immigration law is the responsibility of the federal government; local police focus primarily on enforcing criminal activity and public safety.  Legislation which tasks local police to investigate and arrest immigrants solely for their undocumented status risks overburdening an already stretched system and diverts time and resources away from their primary responsibility of protecting communities and of investigating and pursuing serious criminals.

Secondly, the bill threatens to undermine the civic relationship between the local police and the communities they serve.  Law enforcement agencies have worked tirelessly to build relationships with law-abiding citizens in immigrant communities.  These Community Policing efforts have made great strides in apprehending and preventing crimes in those communities.  Instituting laws, such as the Sanctuaries Cities bill, would undermine those efforts and risk increasing crime and suffering in immigrant neighborhoods. Crime victims or witnesses are unlikely to report or assist in solving a crime if they fear their own circumstances will be scrutinized or jeopardized by cooperating with law enforcement.  Even more, the legislation could lead to claims of racial profiling as law enforcement try to identify undocumented immigrants and inadvertently target legal citizens merely because they belong to a certain ethnic group, thus citizens and legal residents may have their civil and constitutional rights violated.

In addition to the ban on sanctuary cities, SB 9 also requires local law enforcement to verify the immigration status of anyone arrested through the Secure Communities program, which is administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for local law enforcement to compare fingerprints of arrestees to a federal database to determine if they are eligible for deportation and has high error rates. The program was created to identify and deport high-level offenders, not minor offenders like those detained by local law enforcement.  We are concerned that law enforcement may arrest individuals for an otherwise ticketable offense in order to check the individual’s immigration status, which raises concerns regarding racial profiling.

Texas Catholic Conference Concerns About HB 33;

Prefers Means-Tested School Choice Programs

The Catholic Bishops of Texas support the implementation of school choice programs in a responsible way that protects parental choice and prioritizes children who live in poverty.

The program proposed in HB 33 by Rep. Sid Miller has not been tested in other states. Furthermore, it does not target the most vulnerable families in our state — families that need the greatest protection of their parental choice. The legislation also fails to include specific eligibility guidelines for participating private schools, which means that the State may be providing reimbursements for tuition to un-accredited schools that have no accountability to an outside accreditation body. For those reasons, we cannot offer our support to this legislation.
We support the language in Senate Bill 1847, which was filed in the 82nd regular session. This legislation allows for the creation of a corporate tax credit program that specifically targets corporate resources to underprivileged students attending accredited private schools. This program would also save the state an estimated $56 million annually. This program has been modeled successfully in nine states, and we can confidently say that it has helped students in both public and private schools in those states.
School choice is ultimately about parents, rather than government, having the authority to choose a school for their children. School choice does not represent a judgment against our Texas public school system nor its teachers or administrators whose public standing would, we believe, be enhanced in a choice environment. Specifically, we advocate for programs that promote the choice of families with limited economic means.

Our support of school choice stems from our Catholic teaching, but different approaches present advantages and disadvantages. We believe that proposals should be initially targeted to help underprivileged students and be limited in scope, so that the effects of the program can be studied. We believe that participating private schools must be accredited to ensure accountability to their students and to the state.

We urge the Texas Legislature to adopt the language from Senate Bill 1847. The program created by this legislation ensures that parental choice of our most vulnerable families will be protected.

Texas: New Executive Director

Weekly Legislative Update

Before we provide our legislative updates, we have a special announcement to share with you! On Wednesday, June 1, Jeffery Patterson joined us as our new Executive director. Jeffery is the fifth director of the Conference and follows Andrew Rivas, who served as the Executive Director for the Conference for 5 years. Prior to Rivas, Holy Cross Brother Richard Daly served as the Conference’s director for 26 years. You can read more about Jeffery online here.

Texas: Weekly Update

Weekly Legislative Update
We’ve made it through the last full week of the Texas legislature. We have lots of good news. Most importantly is our Immigration Update. Despite being declared an emergency item by the Governor, the Sanctuary cities legislation was not passed. We are monitoring legislation to ensure that pieces of anti-immigration legislation were not added as amendments to other legislation, and will continue to oppose them. The only bill we’ve identified that has anti-immigration language is currently in conference committee, and the bill sponsor intends to strip that negative language. Thank you to everyone who prayed and advocated on this issue, your actions have ensured that the dignity of Texans will be upheld!

The ceremonial bill signings for the Sonogram bill (HB 15) and two Human trafficking bills we support (SB 24, HB 3000) were also this week. TCC Executive Director Andrew Rivas and Associate Director Jennifer Allmon were pleased to participate in these signings. (Photos from the signings are from the Governor’s office).

Budget: The base budget bill (HB 1) passed both the House and Senate and was voted out of conference committee on Thursday, May 26. It must be accepted by a simple majority in each chamber. However, as of the writing of this update, another necessary component to passing the budget, the approval of a school finance plan, has not happened. Without a school finance mechanism, the budget will not balance will not be able to be certified. This will force a special session of the legislature, likely to take place in July.  A state budget must be adopted by August 31, which is the end of the current fiscal year.

Payday Lending Update: The two payday lending bills by Rep. Truitt were passed out of the Senate, concurred on in the House, and have been sent to the governor.  Overall, we remained neutral on the final legislation because it is only a very small step forward that may cause further problems depending on how it is implemented.  There is going to be an interim study on the issue and we are hopeful that this study will provide a better opportunity for reform efforts next session.

Advance Directives Update: Rep. Truitt offered an amendment that we helped to craft that replaced the Hughes amendment with an interim study.  The vote was 96 to 47 in favor of our position to add the amendment. It is our hope that an interim study will provide an opportunity to draft consensus language for a bill next session.

Amendments to Bills: Several good amendments have been added to other bills. These bills are now in conference committees, which is a group of 5 Senators and 5 Representatives who decide which amendments to keep and which to strike. After they make a decision, they provide a conference committee report that must be passed by a simple majority of both chambers. If this happens, the conference committee report version goes to the Governor. We are currently monitoring several amendments, please act on the following action alerts (if you haven’t already!) and feel free to forward them on: SB 1811 (Judicial Bypass Study, Homeless Housing and Services Program Funding, and Smoking Ban),HB 1286 (Access to UIL), and SB 1717 (Strengthen Judicial Bypass).

Next week we’ll provide more information on the outcomes of legislation that we advocated for during our Catholic Faith in Action advocacy day. Within a few weeks, we will have a comprehensive list of bills that have failed and bills that are pending governor approval.  Then, our final outcomes report will be ready shortly after the deadline for the governor to veto bills, which is June 20. Several of our bills have been sent to the Governor – we will provide an update in the Voice if they become new law in this final report.

Updates on Previous Action Alerts
Thank you to all who advocates on SB 89, which expands access to the summer nutrition program. The bill was set on the calendar and passed, however it was watered down with weakening amendments by Representative Landtroop. The bill is now in conference committee and we believe that the conference committee members will strip the weakening amendments and offer a report that protects Texas’ poorest children. Thank you for all who advocated and prayer on this issue!
We are pleased to see that SB 1631, which we oppose because it would limit access to education for children, has failed to pass.
SB 1014, regarding the safe release of inmates, was not set on the calendar before the bill deadline. We are very disappointed that this simple fix that would protect those re-entering society and help protect women against becoming victims of human trafficking did not pass.
We are disappointed to see that SB 377, which expands the use of the death penalty, was passed by the House and will head to the Governor. We continue to pray that prosecutors will not seek the death penalty, as is the overall trend in Texas, and that all people will be vocal opponents of the death penalty.
Sent to the Governor:
HB 27 – Indigent Defense (support)
HB 350 – Juvenile justice reform (support)
HB 824 – Promote fathers’ involvement with children before birth (support)
HB 1481 – Person-first, respectful language for people with disabilities (support)
HB 1567 – Increased access to health care for the incarcerated (support)
HB 1965 – Improved coordination between the state and faith and community based organizations (support)
HB 2014 – Human Trafficking (support)
HB 2077 – Nonprofit and Church environmental impact (support)
HB 2080 – Parking privileges for people with disabilities (support)
HB 2610 – Outreach and application assistance for public benefits (support)
HB 2889 – Re-entry and rehabilitation (support)
HB 3000 – Human Trafficking (support)
SB 61 – Juvenile Justice reform (support)
SB 122 – Wrongful conviction (support)
SB 436 – Increase access to quality day-cares and group-homes (support)
SB 220 – Protection of aging Texans (support)
Signed by the Governor:
HB 3000 – Human Trafficking (support)
Updating your profile to include your address allows us to determine your legislative district and provide your with your legislator’s contact information so that you can easily act on action alerts.  Legislators are most influenced by communication that comes from their own constituents. If you believe that your legislator information is incorrect, or would prefer to email us your address, please contact us.

Bill Reports
We read each bill and determine if the proposed legislation is one that we should support or oppose based on the Bishops’ legislative agenda. We will continue to add new bills to the report as well as edit reports as we have more information available. Below you can find a list of legislation that we have added to our site this week. You can view our entire bill report list here:
Life & Family Life  |    Immigration  |    Education  |    Health & Human Services  |    Criminal Justice Reform  There are no new bills this week.
Back to top

News
Immigration reform must find balance
Holy See Defends Universal Access to Medical Care
Holy See Presents Document on Family, Work, and Celebration
The Journey Ahead
Pope Assures Joplin Tornado Victims of Prayers
University of St. Thomas Summer Institute: Living Justice in the 21st Century

Immigration reform must find balance
Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Archdiocese of Miami (via Politico)

As Washington fiddles on immigration, the rest of the nation burns. State and local law enforcement are now being charged with immigration enforcement responsibilities, leading in some jurisdictions to roundups and racial profiling. Legal immigrants and U.S. citizens have been caught in the dragnet. States are also attempting to pass immigration laws that are inherently unconstitutional — creating conflict with the federal government and sapping political energy better used on a federal bill. Read Full Story >>

Holy See Defends Universal Access to Medical Care
On May 18, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care spoke at the 64th World Health Assembly underway in Geneva, Switzerland from 16 to 24 May. His address was dedicated to the theme “Guaranteeing Universal Access to Medical Care”.

“The World Health Report 2010″, he said, “emphasizes health system financing as the conduit to the much desired universal coverage in health service provision. It also notes with concern that despite the progress made in some countries, on the whole, we are still a long way from universal coverage. This sad fact highlights the need for a true global solidarity, in which high income countries do not only promise, but effectively meet their commitments on development assistance”. Read Full Story >>

Holy See Presents Document on Family, Work, and Celebration
On May 24, the document “Family: Work and Celebration”, the preparatory catecheses for the VII World Meeting of Families, was presented. The gathering will take place in Milan, Italy from May 30 to June 3 in 2012…Bishop Franco Giulio Brambilla noted that the catecheses “form a trio that begins from the family to open it to the world. Work and celebration are the forms within which the family inhabits social space and lives human time. … The first group of catecheses confronts the way of living relationships at home”. A home that “necessarily becomes a space of acceptance and a place where a profound intimacy between the couple and between parents and children is safeguarded. … The second group introduces the theme of work in daily life, … which cannot be just a means of economic support but the place of personal identity and social relationship. … The third group concentrates on the manner in which the family celebrates. It is difficult in today’s situations to live Sunday as a time of celebration … modern humanity has invented free time but seems to have forgotten the celebration … This is why the family needs to engrave on its lifestyle the sense of celebration … as a community of encounter”. Read Full Story >>

The Journey Ahead
By Bishop Kevin Farrell, Diocese of Dallas

It is graduation time. To the many college and high school graduates we offer our congratulations as they begin their transition from one world to another. For some graduation might seem the end of a journey. In reality it is only a new beginning. Our lives are filled with new beginnings. They are the cycles of death and resurrection that permeate our lives beginning with being thrust into the world at our birth and ending with our final departure at death. Our journey from womb to tomb is marked by many death/resurrection events; graduation, marriage, parenthood, and retirement, all of life’s passages. The pattern is always the same. We leave the familiar and comfortable behind and step into opportunity and uncertainty. Read Full Story >>

Pope Assures Joplin Tornado Victims of Prayers
Benedict XVI is assuring his prayers for the victims of the deadly tornado that ravaged Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday, leaving some 122 dead and 750 wounded, making it the deadliest twister in the United States since 1950. The telegram was addressed to Bishop James Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, and sent on behalf of the Holy Father by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s secretary of state. “The Holy Father has followed with deep concern the aftermath of the catastrophic tornado which struck Joplin on Sunday and he asks you to convey to the entire community the assurance of his closeness in prayer,” the message stated. “Conscious of the tragic loss of life and the immensity of the work of rebuilding that lies ahead, he asks God the father of mercies to grant eternal rest to the departed, consolation to the grieving, and strength and hope to the homeless and the injured. Read Full Story >>

University of St. Thomas Summer Institute: Living Justice in the 21st Century
Thursday-Friday, June 9-10, 2011, Scanlan Room, Jerabeck Center, 4000 Mt. Vernon

Each June, the Young Social Justice Summer Conference focuses on a specific social justice issue within the Catholic social tradition featuring both internationally known keynote speakers and practitioners of Catholic Social teaching. This year’s conference will commemorate 120 years of Catholic Social Teaching by focusing on the ongoing relevance of this tradition with regard to various contemporary social issues. Read more online here.

Keynote Speakers
Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, CSB, Bishop of Las Cruces, NM, “Eucharist Without Borders: The Church and the Challenges of Globalization”
Fr. Fred Kammer, SJ, Jesuit Social Research Institute, Loyola University, “Challenges Before Catholic Social Teaching in the 21st Century”

Breakout Sessions
• Life Issues – death penalty and abortion
• The Push and Pull Factors of Immigration
• Families and Social Justice
• Educational Challenges in the 21st Century

Texas: Ask HB 1286 Conference Committee to Support Amendment to Allow Access to UIL for Private and Parochial Schools

Take Action Now!
During this legislative session, we have advocated for legislation that would allow private and parochial school students to children who would like to compete in a fair and equitable manner in academics, athletics and music. While the bills on these issues are no long moving, the language from the bills has been added as an amendment to HB 1286. The bill is currently in conference committee ,where the members will determine which amendments to keep or remove.  Please contact the conference committee members today and ask for their support of the amendment to allow for access to UIL for private and parochial school students. See below for a sample message and contact information.

Sample Message: “Hello, my name is Chris and I am a Catholic in  City ,   Texas. I am calling to ask that you accept floor amendment 3 to HB 1286, which allows private and parochial school students to participate in University Interscholastic League activities (UIL). My support for this amendment is because of a matter of justice as well as public safety. Regardless of whether our students are in public, private or parochial schools we need to recognize that they are all Texas children who would like to compete in a fair and equitable manner regarding academics, athletics and music. In addition, private and parochial school students often travel very far away to participate in activities with other schools and have to return to their schools at dark, which increases their chances of an accident. This amendment excludes football and basketball, which were the main points of opposition from opponents to bills dealing with this issue. Thank you for your time and hard work for the people of Texas. For more information you can contact the Texas Catholic Conference at 512-339-9882.”

Conference Committee Members
Senator Wendy Davis: (512) 463-0110, Wendy.Davis@senate.state.tx.us
Senator Bob Deuell: (512) 463-0102, Bob.Deuell@senate.state.tx.us
Senator Robert Duncan: (512) 463-0128, Robert.Duncan@senate.state.tx.us
Senator Robert Nichols: (512) 463-0103, Robert.Nichols@senate.state.tx.us
Senator Dan Patrick: (512) 463-0107, Dan.Patrick@senate.state.tx.us
Representative Donna Howard: (512) 463-0631, Donna.Howard@house.state.tx.us
Representative Jimmie Aycock: (512) 463-0684, Jimmie.Aycock@house.state.tx.us
Representative Drew Darby: (512) 463-0331, Drew.Darby@house.state.tx.us
Representative Diane Patrick: (512) 463-0624, Diane.Patrick@house.state.tx.us
Representative Marc Veasey: (512) 463-0716, Marc.Veasey@house.state.tx.us

Please act by May 27, 2011. If you contact the office and this alert has already expired, you may ask for your legislator’s position and thank him or her or express your disappointment accordingly.Please feel free to write to us at info@txcatholic.org to let us know about your advocacy experience and about any responses you receive.

Our Catholic Faith

Testimony from TCC Education Director on Access to UIL for Private and Parochial Schools
Regardless of whether our students are in public, private or parochial schools we need to recognize that they are all Texas children who would like to compete in a fair and equitable manner regarding academics, athletics and music. The Scripps National Spelling Bee is a wonderful example of how students can fully participate in a competition regardless of their mode of education be it public, private or homeschool. Read full testimony >>

Texas: Ask SB 1811 Conference Committee to Support Amendments on Judicial Bypass Study, Homeless Housing and Services Program Funding, and Smoking Ban

There are 3 amendments to SB 1811, a fiscal matters bill, that we support. These amendments would authorize a study on judicial bypass for abortion for minors, allow for the use of additional funds for the Texas Homeless Housing and Services Program (HHSP), and ban smoking in public places. The bill is currently being considered by a conference committee of house and senate members, who are tasked with reconciling differences between the versions of the bill passed by each chamber. This fiscal matters bills must be passed in order to balance the state budget anda balanced state budget is a constitutional requirement. Please contact the conference committee members today and ask for their support of these amendments. See below for a sample message and contact information.

Sample Message: “Hello, my name is Chris and I am a Catholic in  City ,   Texas. I am calling to ask that you accept the following amendments to SB 1811, which has the support of the Texas Bishops. First, Representative Phil King’s amendment, #90, which authorizes a study by the Supreme Court on funding used to pay for attorneys who represent minors seeking judicial bypass from parental consent for abortion. It is important that we know the frequency and costs of judicial bypass so that we can craft strategies to continue to support teenage moms and help them choose life for their unborn children. Second, please accept Representative John Otto’s amendment, #9, which allows Texas Enterprise Funds to be used for the Texas Homeless Housing and Services Program. It is vital that this program is funded so that we can protect the most vulnerable in our state. Finally, please accept Representative Crownover’s amendment, #53, which bans smoking in public places, in its original form without any of the additional amendments that would allow for exemptions. Thank you for your time and hard work for the people of Texas. For more information you can contact the Texas Catholic Conference at 512-339-9882.”

Conference Committee Members
Senator Robert Duncan: (512) 463-0128, Robert.Duncan@senate.state.tx.us
Senator Bob Duell: (512) 463-0102, Bob.Deuell@senate.state.tx.us
Senator Dan Patrick: (512) 463-0107, Dan.Patrick@senate.state.tx.us
Senator Royce West: (512) 463-0123, Royce.West@senate.state.tx.us
Senator Tommy Williams: (512) 463-0104, Tommy.Williams@senate.state.tx.us
Representative Myra Crownover: (512) 463-0582, Myra.Crownover@house.state.tx.us
Representative Charlie Geren: (512) 463-0610, charlie.geren@house.state.tx.us
Representative Rob Eissler: (512) 463-0797, Rob.Eissler@house.state.tx.us
Representative Jim Pitts: (512) 463-0516, Jim.Pitts@house.state.tx.us
Representative Sylvester Turner: (512) 463-0554, Sylvester.Turner@house.state.tx.us

Email the whole committee here.

Please act by May 27, 2011. If you contact the office and this alert has already expired, you may ask for your legislator’s position and thank him or her or express your disappointment accordingly.Please feel free to write to us at info@txcatholic.org to let us know about your advocacy experience and about any responses you receive.

Texas: Catholic Bishops Ask Legislators to Oppose Advance Directives Reform Amendments

All human life is a gift by God, our Creator, and is therefore innately sacred. In our lives, we strive to live a life that is worthy of our dignity and that promotes the dignity of others.

This respect for life is lifelong – from conception to natural death.

A dignified natural death occurs without human intervention that would deliberately cause or hasten the patient’s death.  The Texas Bishops believe that in end-of-life decisions, the patient and his or her family should be the first, but not only concern of legislation impacting end-of-life care. Issues related to the death experience are profoundly important not only to patients, families, and communities, but also to the health care professionals who are involved, and who want to provide the most compassionate care possible.

The instances when the Advance directives law comes into play are under the circumstances of a patient in the active dying process. In these cases, a patient’s cause of death is not euthanasia or the direct action or inaction of the physician, but instead is the patient’s underlying disease or injury.

When a disagreement between the family and the physician occurs in the situation of a patient who is in the active dying process, a hospital ethics committee will consider whether continued medical intervention will artificially delay death with no real benefit to the patient, or even worse, will cause further and severe physical suffering to the patient.  Indefinite treat-until-transfer overrides the physician’s judgment, renders useless any consideration by the medical ethics committee about inappropriate interventions and treatment, and requires physicians, nurses, and other hospital caregivers to continue to provide unethical and inappropriate treatment.

Our criteria for a living will or advance directive is that it “must explicitly exclude any form of euthanasia, as well as reject an abusive and irrational extension of the death process (A Will to Live: Clear Answers on End of Life Issues, 55, emphasis is our own).”
The active Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas oppose any effort to address advance directives issues via a floor amendment of any kind, especially one that requires indefinite treatment pending transfer.

Because of the complexity of this statute, anything short of a thorough and deliberate process of amending the statute is unacceptable.  We urge the leadership to support an interim study on Advance Directives reform in order to have a detailed and comprehensive reform bill offered in 2013.

For questions regarding this issue or any of the issues on the Bishops’ Legislative Agenda, please contact the Texas Catholic Conference at 512-339-9882 or you can email Jennifer Allmon at jennifer@txcatholic.org. Visit our Advance Directives resource page at www.TXcatholic.org/ad.asp.