Telemedicine Should Save Lives, Not End Them

Access to quality health care is a basic human right. Advances in technology have made it possible for so many to get the highest quality care no matter where they live. So many lives are being saved in remarkable ways using telemedicine.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will be considering Senate Bill 780 which will establish important guidelines about who can provide telemedicine services, and will clarify insurance coverage for those services. It is good to support advancements in telemedicine services, but only if they are ordered toward saving lives, not ending them.

State Representative Kathy Rapp (R-Warren) proposed an amendment that would prohibit the use of telemedicine for abortions. This simple amendment would allow Senate Bill 780 to move forward without putting vulnerable unborn patients at risk.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association are urging lawmakers to support the amendment and allow Senate Bill 780 to move forward without putting the lives of the vulnerable unborn at risk.


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Telemedicine Should Save Lives, Not End Them

Access to quality health care is a basic human right. Advances in technology have made it possible for so many to get the highest quality care no matter where they live. So many lives are being saved in remarkable ways using telemedicine.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will be considering Senate Bill 780 which will establish important guidelines about who can provide telemedicine services, and will clarify insurance coverage for those services. It is good to support advancements in telemedicine services, but only if they are ordered toward saving lives, not ending them.

State Representative Kathy Rapp (R-Warren) proposed an amendment that would prohibit the use of telemedicine for abortions. This simple amendment would allow Senate Bill 780 to move forward without putting vulnerable unborn patients at risk.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association are urging lawmakers to support the amendment and allow Senate Bill 780 to move forward without putting the lives of the vulnerable unborn at risk.


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Pennsylvania’s Bishops: We Pledge Our Support for Independent Sex Abuse Survivors’ Compensation Program

The Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania issued the following statement:

Since the release of the grand jury report on August 14, we the Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania have reflected deeply on the ugly record of clergy sexual abuse in our Commonwealth, and on times when Church leadership failed to protect our people over a period of decades.

We fully acknowledge that the Church sometimes failed the most vulnerable among us — children and young adults. We deeply regret the suffering of survivors and any decisions that failed to protect them.

As the Pennsylvania General Assembly returns for the fall legislative session, assuring the protection of children and help for survivors of sexual abuse should rightly be one of its top priorities. As various alternatives and programs are proposed, we will support all reasonable and constitutional efforts focused on helping survivors and their families on a path toward healing.

We recognize our responsibility to provide an opportunity for sexual abuse survivors whose cases are time-barred from pursuing civil claims to share their experiences, identify their abusers, and receive compensation to assist their healing and recovery.

To that end, we commit ourselves to creating or participating in an independent, voluntary program that will include a panel of qualified experts to review individual cases and determine financial assistance.  We understand that this compensation program will require substantial fiscal commitment and all dioceses will be seriously impacted. We stress that it is most important for all experts serving on this panel to be independent of the influence of the Church or of any institution in which children may have been abused.

We believe such a program will expedite the process for survivors to present their cases to experienced, compassionate experts who will determine an outcome for each case in a swift, efficient manner. In doing so, the panel will provide a resolution to survivors and allow them to avoid difficult and prolonged litigation. We believe an independent panel is the best option, considering a window or reviver of the statute of limitations will inevitably result in bankruptcy for dioceses. Bankruptcy would cripple the ability of a diocese to provide compensation and healing for survivors, while vastly reducing or eliminating social service programs that greatly benefit all Pennsylvanians by serving some of the most at-risk people in our communities.

We hope that as the program develops it will be open to any youth service organization, private or public, to opt into it to fulfill its obligations to survivors of abuse. We welcome legislative support for such a program.

We cannot undo the harm that childhood sexual abuse has caused, but in humility and repentance we hope the path forward offers a way toward healing for survivors and their families.

-The Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania


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Election 2018: Where do the candidates stand?

Much is at stake in the world and right here in Pennsylvania. Election Day is approaching. On November 6, 2018, voters will chose who will lead our Commonwealth for the next few years. We must prayerfully consider for whom we cast our ballots.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference neither supports nor opposes any candidate for public office but aims to educate Catholic voters about candidates and their positions on key issues. A few candidates answered a questionnaire that the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference sent to every statewide candidate before the Primary Election this year. They took advantage of the opportunity to state their positions in their own words. U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D) and his opponent Representative Lou Barletta (R) responded (read their questionnaire responses at; the candidates for Pennsylvania governor did not respond. However, all of the candidates have made public statements and published campaign materials that reflect where they stand.

These are a few, but certainly not all, of the issues that may be of interest to Catholic voters.

Life Dignity of the Human Person

PCC asked the U.S. Senate candidates to choose which statement reflects his position most accurately: a.) I support legalized abortion; b.) I oppose legalized abortion in all circumstances; or c.) I oppose legalized abortion, except when the life of the mother is in danger or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. Both Casey and Barletta answered “c.”

The gubernatorial incumbent Tom Wolf (D) lists protecting a woman’s right to choose among his “progressive values” on his campaign website. The campaign cites his veto of Senate Bill 3 which he calls the, “most extreme anti-choice bill in the country;” his work as a “former Planned Parenthood patient escort;” and his opposition to “Republican efforts to defund the (Planned Parenthood) organization” as evidence of his strong position on the issue. (

The Republican candidate, former state Senator Scott Wagner, has publicly stated that he is “100-percent pro-life” and supports overturning Roe v. Wade. ( In 2017, he voted in favor of Senate Bill 3 which would have banned the cruel and brutal practice of dismemberment abortions in Pennsylvania and restricted abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Access to Health Care

PCC asked the U.S. Senate candidates about federal funding for Medicaid, a long-standing program that helps the poor have access to health care. Casey said he agreed with the statement, “Congress should maintain federal funding for the Medicaid program to strengthen it as a safety-net for low-income, elderly and disabled people.” Barletta said he supports a different statement, “Congress should cap federal funding and issue block grants for Medicaid giving more responsibility to the states,” and added that he supports “an improved Medicaid program that gives states the flexibility to provide better quality care for those in need”

Wolf lists expanding Medicaid as a campaign priority and boasts, “One of (his) first actions as governor was to expand Medicaid giving an additional 720,000 Pennsylvanians the health care they need.”

Wagner has not prominently shared his opinion of Medicaid expansion specifically; but his campaign is on record saying, “Senator Wagner supports the full repeal of Obamacare. As a business owner, he has seen the dramatic increase in costs in the years since Obamacare was passed.” (PoliticsPA, 3/16/2017)

School Choice

The U.S. Senate candidates were asked to give their position on providing a federal tax credit to businesses that donate to scholarship organizations that provide scholarships for middle and low-income students at private and religious schools in grades kindergarten through 12. Casey responded, “I do not support such a tax credit. Businesses can already deduct charitable contributions.” Barletta said he supports the idea. (

Education is a prominent issue in the campaign for governor. Wolf has taken a strong stand against legislative proposals that would create state-funded education savings accounts, or vouchers, for individual students. In a statement Wolf urged the Senate to vote against one such proposal, Senate Bill 2, saying he believed it “would siphon scarce resources from public schools.” (Press Release, May 22, 2018) Wagner responded to a question about the same legislation during a telephone town hall meeting saying, “I support all school choice.” (WHYY, May 17, 2018)

Further Information

All of these resources serve to educate voters about the issues and allow us to inform our consciences about which candidate will act in the best interest of the common good. As Catholic citizens, we have a moral obligation to participate in the political process. Mark your calendar for Election Day on November 6, 2018. Visit to find out where your polling place is. Visit the PA Department of State’s website at to see who else is on the ballot. Then exercise your faithful citizenship and VOTE!


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Help for victims/survivors in Pennsylvania

If you suffered abuse, it was not your fault. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest, deacon, or individual representing the Catholic Church, there are several things you can do:

  • Contact the appropriate law enforcement agency, which can help determine options for making a criminal complaint.
  • Contact the toll-free Pennsylvania ChildLine number at 800-932-0313, a local child protection agency, a private attorney, a support group, or a mental health professional.
  • Contact a diocesan or eparchial victim/survivor assistance coordinator who is available to help victims/survivors make a formal complaint of abuse to the diocese or eparchy. The Victim Assistance Coordinator is also available to arrange a personal meeting with the bishop or his representative and to obtain support services for the needs of the individual and families.














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Government Relations Professional Wanted – Social Concerns Director

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) is seeking a seasoned government relations professional to advocate the Catholic perspective on social concerns issues at the State Capitol in Harrisburg and beyond. He/she will have a specific focus on lobbying for issues related to human services, respect for human life, and social justice.

A successful candidate should have bachelor’s degree or equivalent in political science, public administration, communications, or liberal arts. Master’s degree is desirable. Experience and familiarity with the workings of state government is essential.

He/she must be a practicing Catholic in good standing who is intelligent, zealous, dedicated and committed to the interests of the Church, knowledgeable about and interested in Church affairs, and a creative and productive writer, researcher, and policy analyst.

He/she must have the ability and social skills to work with both individuals and groups, both inside and outside the Church and convey the Church’s teachings, especially as they apply to elected and appointed government officials.

This full-time position is office-based at PCC’s location in downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Send cover letter and resume by September 3, 2018, to: PA Catholic Conference, PO Box 2835, Harrisburg, PA 17105 or send electronically to


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A Portrait of Pennsylvania’s Poor | A series published by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference

Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11); but who are the poor?

According to the U.S. Census, approximately 13 percent of Pennsylvanians live under the poverty line. This is a threshold determined by the Census Bureau to be the minimum income necessary for meeting basic needs. The annual income figure is adjusted by the number of family members that it is supposed to support. For example, in 2017, a family of four earning less than $49,200 per year is counted as poor in the statistics. The poverty threshold is updated annually to account for inflation, but admittedly it does not provide a complete description of what families need to live. It is merely a statistical yardstick to help us gauge the economic circumstances of our communities.

Works of mercy, those charitable actions by which we help our neighbors with spiritual and bodily necessities, have been a concern for Christians since the beginning. We are called by Jesus himself to care for the needs of sufferers. Many of us know the corporal works of mercy by heart: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2447)

This love for the poor is supposed to inspire our decisions about how we practice this Christian charity through direct giving and in our work toward alleviating conditions that contribute to poverty. While there is much debate about how to address the needs of the poor and who bears the greatest responsibility, it is certain that the Church alone cannot eliminate poverty.

As the public affairs agency for the Catholic Church in the state capital, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference sits at the intersection between Catholic Charities and state government policy. We must pay close attention to the debate about poverty in the public square.

This series of articles will explore a few important questions: What is it like to experience poverty? How does someone fall into that situation? What is Pennsylvania doing to address the problem? What can a concerned Catholic citizen do to help?

Amy B. Hill, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference’s Communications Director, is the lead contributor of the “A Portrait of Pennsylvania’s Poor” series. 




Read more: A History of Helping the Poor


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A History of Helping the Poor

The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed its 2018-2019 spending plan a full five days before the constitutional June 30 deadline. Part of this year’s $32.7 billion budget includes $12.5 billion for human services that help the poor – Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as SNAP or food stamps), housing assistance, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and others. Many line items represent the state’s obligation toward implementing federal programs. While these programs may seem like a fact of life today, they were not always available to people in need.

When the economy doubled from 1920 to 1929, Americans found it hard to believe that anything but good would come to the United States and its citizens. The stock market hit its peak in August 1929, and few Americans were out of work. But on October 29, 1929, “Black Tuesday,” the stock market suffered a calamitous crash. The rush on banks caused financial turmoil, many valuable American jobs were lost, and people everywhere were left with little to nothing. To make matters worse, a severe drought caused decreased food production and increased food prices. Bread lines and soup kitchens became necessities, and many families broke apart. There was genuine fear for the future and the resulting wide spread poverty was known as the Great Depression.

In 1932 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president of the United States. He proposed many social programs to improve the lives of Americans including the Social Security Act. It was meant to support those who lost their jobs, the elderly, survivors of family breadwinners who passed away, and dependent or disabled children.

American Catholics were on the front lines of caring for the poor through the Church’s charitable works, but also in advocacy for social justice. The National Catholic Welfare Conference (a precursor to today’s United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) wrote a letter to Congress articulating Catholic support for the Economic Security Act, “Everything that promotes just legislation, and particularly such legislation as is beneficial and helpful to our needy citizens in this time of wide-spread distress, has received and will receive the full support of the National Catholic Conference.” They also advocated for the law to support the kind of public/private partnerships that are common today.

Decades later President Lyndon B. Johnson furthered Roosevelt’s work. His “War on Poverty” helped poor communities by creating jobs, issuing loans, and providing guarantees for employers that hired the unemployed. Greater access to health care was granted when Medicare and Medicaid became law. And schools and early childhood programs like Head Start were given greater resources.

There was much debate in the 1930s and the 1960s about the role of government in alleviating poverty. The debate continues today; but what remains is the need for society to care for the poor. Government alone cannot solve the problem of poverty. As Catholics we must do the best we can with the charitable works in our Church; but also work to change public policy to eliminate contributing factors to poverty.

“A History of Helping the Poor” was written by Ethan Miscavige, a high school student doing a summer internship with the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. PCC Communications Director Amy Hill contributed to this story.


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State Must Do More to Help Keep People Warm, Safer through Winter

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale audited two programs designed to keep low-income Pennsylvanians warm and safer through winter. He found that the state failed to spend $5.4 million of federal funding that potentially could have helped 527 families.

The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) administers the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) which helps low-income families reduce energy costs by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes. The Department of Human Services (DHS) administers the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that helps low-income families pay their heating bills.

“My auditors found that DCED failed to spend $5,449,093 of U.S. Department of Energy funds over four years due to the 2015-2016 state budget impasse and newly implemented federal weatherization quality standards,” DePasquale said.

“That money could have helped weatherize 527 homes for at-risk individuals and their families who needed assistance when the average winter temperatures ranged from 12 to 40 degrees.”

The 2015-2016 budget impasse that began July 1, 2015, resulted in funds not being released to local agencies until February of 2016. This led to local agencies needing to spend two years’ worth of funding in 17 months.

DePasquale called on the governor and the legislature to pass a law that requires all available federal funding that promotes the safety and welfare of at-risk Pennsylvanians to be released as of July 1 of each year, “In the event of a budget impasse, our most vulnerable residents would not have to risk harm while elected officials are sitting in air-conditioned, heated state office buildings.”

The audit also found that DCED’s process to prioritize weatherization services for at-risk citizens is flawed. For example, DCED has no way to track the number of eligible applicants waiting for weatherization services or to know how long they have been on the list.

Further, the audit identified concerns about LIHEAP benefit payments that were inaccurately calculated and some households improperly receiving two cash payments.

“The goal is to run these programs with zero errors,” DePasquale said. “While DHS must continuously improve its application and benefit determination process overall, LIHEAP is an example of how a program should be run. DHS has gone the extra mile to make improvements to LIHEAP so it can serve our most vulnerable citizens.”

To improve the weatherization program, the audit includes one recommendation for the governor and General Assembly and 19 recommendations for DCED. In its written response, included in the audit report, the agency appears to be in general agreement with two of the three findings and agrees with approximately half of the recommendations.

DHS is in agreement with the finding applicable to LIHEAP and is committed to implementing the recommendations.

The Energy Conservation and Assistance Programs (LIHEAP and Weatherization) audit report is available online at:

NOTE: Catholic Charities and Catholic Social Services are among the local agencies that turn to the LIHEAP and Weatherization programs to minister to people in need in their communities.


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Statement on Joint State Government Commission Report on Capital Punishment

Just three people have been executed in the past 56 years in Pennsylvania, yet more than 466 death warrants have been signed since 1985.Currently there are 150 inmates on death row. In 2012, the Joint State Government Commission was asked to study the practice and process of capital punishment in PA. On Monday, June 25, 2018, the long anticipated report about the death penalty was finally released.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has long opposed the death penalty. The Catholic Church is committed to upholding the dignity and sanctity of every human life— even the life of a person convicted of a most heinous crime. Our Christian faith calls all people to grow in respect for human life and to oppose the death penalty in our modern society.

Catholic opposition to the use of the death penalty should not be construed as a lack of compassion for those who have been affected by violent crime. People convicted of capital offenses must be punished effectively and appropriately for their crimes. Family and friends of victims, and society as a whole, demand this; but true emotional, spiritual and even physical healing cannot be found in vengeance.

While the Joint State Government Commission’s report on capital punishment  does not recommend abolishing the death penalty, it does confirm that our current system of state sponsored executions is flawed, ineffective, unjust, and expensive.

The Commission’s report should prompt an important and long-overdue debate about Pennsylvania’s penal system. The report demonstrates that the status quo is unacceptable. We can and must find alternatives to taking the lives of the guilty.  Punishment should reflect our belief in the inherent human dignity of each person, and taking a life to avenge the death is in direct conflict with a culture of life.


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General Assembly Joins Forces to Fight Hunger

One out of every eight Pennsylvanians struggle with hunger, and sadly, nearly 500,000 children are included in that statistic.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is proud to support the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s initiative to combat hunger and food insecurity across the state.

On September 24, 2018, senators and state representatives will be playing a friendly “Yinz vs. Youse”/”East vs. West” charity softball game. Proceeds from the game will benefit hunger-fighting programs statewide administered by Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania.

This will be the third such game played. Since 2013, the event has raised over $130,000 to fight hunger in Pennsylvania.

Recently, legislative team captains, including Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) held a “draft day” news conference to draw attention to the purpose of the event and to secure team rosters.

More information can be found at


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2018-19 State Budget Sees EITC Increase, Investment in School Safety

Governor Tom Wolf has affixed his signature to the 2018-19 state budget that comes with a total spending number of $32.7 billion for the next fiscal year beginning July 1.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference tracks various areas of the state budget, namely in the realm of education.

The Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, or EITC, received a $25 million increase. That increase will take the current total from $135 million to $160 million.

The increase in funding brings the EITC and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) Program totals to $210 million, combined. Below is a breakdown of current EITC OSTC funding:

  • OSTC – $50 million
  • EITC – $160 million, with the following for each category:
    • $110 million for K-12 Scholarship Organizations
    • $12.5 million for Pre-K Scholarship Organizations
    • $37.5 million for Educational Improvement Organizations
  • Combined OSTC and EITC Totals – $210 million

The tax credit scholarships have been an investment that has paid dividends for students seeking a Catholic or other private education in Pennsylvania. Every Catholic school in all corners of this great Commonwealth benefits from the EITC or OSTC programs.

Each year more than 40,000 families get a scholarship that permits the parents to send their children to a school that best meets their needs. It gives these families a true choice in the right educational path for their children.

In addition, the budget makes an investment of $60 million in school safety for school resource officers, security equipment and other proven methods of preventing school violence.


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Bishop Alfred Schlert has Issued a Statement on Immigration

Bishop Alfred Schlert of the Diocese of Allentown has released the following statement calling for our nation’s leaders to treat all people with compassion and respect they deserve as human beings while dealing with the immigration crisis:

“Reasonable people may disagree over the best ways to control illegal immigration to the United States.

It is hard to disagree, however, with the growing chorus of voices from both sides of the political aisle, and from religious leaders of many faiths, that we should not be solving this problem by taking children from their parents at the border.

United States immigration officials are separating children from their families under a policy in which all cases of illegal entry are referred for criminal prosecution. Children are not allowed to accompany their parents to jail, so they are separated and held in detention facilities.

The nation’s Catholic Bishops have condemned using the separation of families as a way to deter illegal immigration. Bishops from around the country have called this practice immoral, cruel, unjust, ineffective and contrary to human decency. The forcible separation of children from their families is in direct violation of Catholic beliefs and values.

This is not a debate about whether our borders should be secure. They should be, and my brother Bishops and I believe that our government’s leaders should take all reasonable steps to keep them that way.

Rather, I would submit that this is a debate about human dignity, about doing the right thing for innocent children, about the sanctity of the family, and about the integrity of the moral compass of our country and its people.

Remember that ours is a nation of immigrants. Few among us would be here if our parents or grandparents or great-grandparents were not afforded the chance to come to this land of opportunity in search of a better life, or to escape persecution.

The Catholic Church, too, is built on a foundation of immigration. We have a long history of embracing immigrants, migrants, refugees and others in need, and proving them with pastoral care and a sense of community and belonging. Our Church has responded to Christ’s call to “welcome the stranger among us.”  We are taught to treat the newcomer as we would treat Jesus Christ himself, were He to arrive at our nation’s border in search of a better life.

The news reports from our Southwestern border are heartbreaking. Imagine how these children must feel, not knowing when or if they will see their parents again. I pray that our nation’s leaders will find a way to care for our national interest on illegal immigration while also treating all people with the compassion and respect they deserve as human beings.

Meanwhile, as we work to find a just and humane solution to the separation crisis, we also must continue to seek effective resolution of other pressing immigration issues: the granting of political asylum for those fleeing domestic and gang-related violence; the search for a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants, called Dreamers; the tragedy of eliminating Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from certain countries, many of whom have been here for years and are productive members of our society; and the plight of Christians fleeing persecution in the Middle East.

Please join me in praying for successful resolutions, and in praying that all of us, regardless of political affiliation, can open our hearts and participate in meaningful and civil public discourse on these issues.”


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Pennsylvania Catholic Conference Testifies Before PIAA Legislative Oversight Committee

The PIAA Legislative Oversight Committee recently held a public hearing at the state Capitol to receive testimony regarding classifications of high school sports, boundary and non-boundary schools and other issues surrounding public/private school post-season competition.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference’s Director of Education, Sean McAleer, testified before the committee, outlining the Catholic schools’ perspective.



He added,” The PIAA Board and Administration consistently revise and amend the PIAA Constitution and By-laws to create a more level playing field for all membership schools in all sports. Historically, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has supported most changes and worked with the PIAA Board and Administration to resolve any issues. The PCC supports the three newest PIAA proposals that would address current concerns:


  1. All PIAA transfers will soon be transparent, so anyone can see which schools are receiving the most transferring students. Just as the word transparency is used to demonstrate how government agencies spend tax dollars, it too will be used by the PIAA to increase the availability of information about student transfers. Data with respect to all transfers will soon be online for everyone to see. This tool will be very effective in the future to identify questionable transfers for all PIAA membership schools, so no one will be able to hide such information anymore. This is a 180 degree change from current practice; and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference supports this change.


  1. PIAA has passed a new transfer rule that went into effect for all spring sports and all winter and fall sports in the future. Now any student transferring from a school, who previously was eligible to play 50% of the former school’s games in any particular sport, is not eligible to play that sport at the new school for the remainder of the year. Also, any transferring student must sit out for 21 days before competing in any game for a new school. Of course, any parent can request a hearing with the PIAA district committee to seek a waiver, but these two measures will definitely help the PIAA with questionable transfers; it is likely that we will not see as many transfers or questionable transfers as we saw in the past. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference also supports this change.


  1. The PIAA Administration also introduced a classification rule that utilizes a point-based and transfer-based scale at the last Competition Committee meeting that the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference supports and PCC is working with PIAA and all stakeholders for its implementation. All the details regarding the new proposed rule are still being worked out, but generally if any school (public or private) qualifies for state competition in football or basketball, which seems to be the two most problematic sports programs, and the school has student transfers on its team, it could be elevated to a higher classification for the next two year cycle.”


The committee is expected to hold an additional hearing this summer to receive more feedback from various stakeholders.



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Down Syndrome Protection Act Passes Senate Committee

UPDATE: On June 13, 2018, House Bill 2050 was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a vote of 10-5. The next step will be a vote on the floor of the Senate. Urge your state Senator to vote YES to protect children with Down syndrome in the womb through the Catholic Advocacy Network.

Legislation that would prohibit the abortion of a child due solely to a diagnosis of possible Down syndrome passed the House of Representatives on April 16 by a vote of 139-56.

Under current law, a woman can obtain an abortion prior to 24 weeks gestational age for any reason, except if the woman’s sole reason is to select the sex of the child. This bill, championed by House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and Rep. Judy Ward (R-Blair), will expand that exception to prohibit aborting a child simply because of a prenatal diagnosis that the unborn child has Down syndrome. The law would have no restrictions on a mother obtaining an abortion in cases of rape, incest or personal endangerment.

“The future has never been brighter for babies born with Down syndrome,” said Ward. “Medical and social advances have changed what it means to live with this condition. Down syndrome means that opportunities exist in every area of school, community and even professional life. We’ve learned too much to accept that Down syndrome citizens should be considered anything less than full members of the community. They deserve respect and the protection of our laws.”

Down syndrome is a congenital, chromosome abnormality causing developmental delays and physical limitations impacting a child’s height and facial appearance. In recent years, celebrity support and public awareness about advances in support for families impacted by the condition have dramatically improved the life span and educational and work opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome.

The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Click here to find out how members of the House in your diocese voted.


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Judge to hear foster families targeted by City of Philadelphia City’s harmful new policy

According to the religious liberty advocacy group Becket, Philadelphia-based foster families will be in court Monday fighting to end a new City of Philadelphia policy that is currently leaving numerous foster homes empty. In Sharonell Fulton, et al. v. City of Philadelphia, the City issued a new policy barring Catholic Social Services from placing children with foster families, solely because the City disagrees with the agency’s religious beliefs. That policy is causing serious problems for foster kids and families, and Catholic Social Services has asked a court for an urgent ruling by June 30.

In March, the City of Philadelphia issued an?urgent call for 300?new foster parents to provide loving homes for some of the over 6,000 kids in Philadelphia foster care. That same month, the City abruptly barred Catholic Social Services, one of the city’s top-rated foster agencies, from placing children with foster parents like Sharonell Fulton, who has fostered over 40 kids in the last 25 years. This decision makes it exponentially harder for hundreds of children in need of foster care to find homes. Represented by Becket, Sharonell Fulton, Cecelia Paul, Toni Simms-Busch, and Catholic Social Services are asking the court to halt the City’s harmful policy and allow kids to be placed in a loving home.  

Oral Argument in Sharonell Fulton et. al. v. City of Philadelphia  

Lori Windham, senior attorney at Becket
Philadelphia foster families 

Monday, June 18 at 2:00 p.m. EST
(arguments are expected to go three hours)  

U.S. District Court
601 Market St., Philadelphia, Pa. 



Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions?and has a 100% win-rate before the United States?Supreme Court.?For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including?Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians?(read more here). 


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USCCB Chairmen Applaud Supreme Court’s Respect for Religious Liberty in Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision

From the USCCB – June 4, 2018 – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The case involves a Christian baker named Jack Phillips who declined in 2012 to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. State officials sought to compel Phillips to create such cakes under Colorado’s public accommodations law. The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Phillips under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Philadelphia, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the following joint statement:

“Today’s decision confirms that people of faith should not suffer discrimination on account of their deeply held religious beliefs, but instead should be respected by government officials. This extends to creative professionals, such as Jack Phillips, who seek to serve the Lord in every aspect of their daily lives. In a pluralistic society like ours, true tolerance allows people with different viewpoints to be free to live out their beliefs, even if those beliefs are unpopular with the government.”

The USCCB filed an amicus curiae brief supporting Masterpiece Cakeshop, which can be found here:






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Lawmakers Gather to Support a Better Life for Human Trafficking Victims

State Representative Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) at the podium joins fellow lawmakers and sex trafficking victims urging support for the Safe Harbor Act.

A group of lawmakers are rallying for a change that will lead to a better life for human trafficking victims. Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R – Bucks, Montgomery) spearheaded the call to action for the House of Representatives to pass his legislation, Senate Bill 554 which would provide specialized services to victims of sex trafficking under the age of 18 instead of facing charges in the juvenile justice system.

“The pain expressed by these tender souls is devastating,” Mary Bair, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at Gaudenzia, Inc., said about her work with young women who escaped the sex trafficking trade. She said the Safe Harbor Act legislation would help “restore the dignity and autonomy” of these victims.

SB 554 would establish a statewide protocol to provide local services including safe and stable housing, access to education, employment and life-skills training, counseling, treatment for addictions, health care, and more. Rather than facing delinquency charges for prostitution, these children will get the help and support necessary to break free from enslavement.

“Thousands of children are coerced into sexual servitude each year, and have been charged with crimes such as prostitution and drug trafficking,” said Senator Greenleaf.  “The Safe Harbor bill would divert exploited children from the criminal justice system, and recognize them as victims of human trafficking, not criminals.  There is no such thing as a child prostitute—they are children, not legally capable of such consent. Now is the time to prevent the child victims of this heinous crime from gaining a criminal record and being unjustly punishment while the real criminals go free.”

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed the legislation in April 2017. Prior to the rally, the House Judiciary Committee approved SB 554 clearing the next legislative hurdle.  The bill will now be considered by the full House.  Senator Greenleaf thanked Representative Ron Marsico (R – Dauphin), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, for his leadership in moving the bill forward.

The Democratic chair of the committee, Representative Joe Petrarca (D – Armstrong, Indiana, Westmoreland), offered an amendment to strengthen the bill’s impact and lent his voice to the rally. “Human trafficking does not skip over Pennsylvania,” he said. “It is time we treat children as children.” Rep. Petrarca joined Sen. Greenleaf and many other state Senators and Representatives in urging their House colleagues to pass SB 554.

As Catholics, we vehemently oppose human trafficking and modern-day slavery as it contravenes basic human dignity. In addition to working to eradicate human trafficking, our nation should ensure that victims have the services and support they need to heal.

Join the rallying cry to create a better life for sex trafficking victims in Pennsylvania and urge your state Representative to vote YES on SB 554.


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When adoption agencies can turn away gay prospective parents, what happens to the kids?

Religious News Service reporter Bobby Ross, Jr. recently asked this question, “When adoption agencies can turn away gay prospective parents, what happens to the kids?” With conflicts between religious based adoption and foster care agencies and government non-discrimination regulations playing out across the country including the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, this is an important question.

In March, the City of Philadelphia issued an urgent call for 300 new foster parents to provide loving homes for some of the over 6,000 kids in Philadelphia foster care. That same month, the City abruptly barred Catholic Social Services, one of the city’s top-rated foster agencies, from placing children with foster families. This decision makes it exponentially harder for hundreds of children in need of foster care to find homes. Foster homes are sitting empty, even as the city begs for more families to help in its foster care crisis.

Catholic Social Services and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have been serving children throughout Philadelphia for over a century. Their Catholic mission drives them to find loving homes for all children in their care, regardless of the child’s race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. Catholic Social Services currently serves over 100 children in foster homes. No family or individual has ever complained that the agency’s Catholic mission prevented them from fostering or adopting a child.

Sharonell Fulton from Overbrook Farms has been a foster parent for over 25 years. She has opened her home to over 40 children, including two children currently in her care. She strives to provide a loving, stable home and treat each child as if they were her own. To do that, Fulton relies on Catholic Social Services’ help, including around-the-clock support and access to information and resources.

“What justice is there in taking stable, loving homes away from children?” Fulton said in a statement to “If the city cuts off Catholic Social Services from foster care, foster moms like me won’t have the help and support they need to care for the special-needs kids.”

By freezing and threatening to cancel its foster care contract with the CSS, the city is “taking away this help and causing harm and heartache to countless families like mine,” Fulton said. The children will suffer if parents like Fulton do not have the support they need.

In May, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court in Philadelphia on behalf of archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS), Sharonell Fulton and two other women caregivers associated with the archdiocesan agency. They asked the court to halt the city’s harmful policy. A hearing is expected later this year.


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Catholic Hospital, Recovery Program Featured at Opioid Town Hall Forum

The opioid epidemic has reached every corner of Pennsylvania and it continues to plague every city, every town and every walk of life. State and local officials, members of the local community and those on the frontlines of fighting back against the epidemic gathered in Cumberland County on Thursday, May 31, to hold an open discussion on the problem and possible solutions.

Hosted by Rep. Greg Rothman (R-Cumberland) and Sen. Mike Regan (R-Cumberland), the event featured Dr. Carrie DeLone, Medical Director of Geisinger Holy Spirit Medical Group and Tracie Bauer, Substance Abuse Counselor at the Evergreen House, a faith-based residential recovery facility for women suffering from addiction.

“Drug addiction is a disease,” said DeLone. “It’s a chronic disease, just like heart disease; diabetes.”

DeLone, who has done extensive research into the history of the opioid epidemic, presented her findings to a full room of attendees.

In addition, Bauer outlined the services – centered on strength and hope – offered at the Evergreen House, which is a division of Catholic Charities within the Diocese of Harrisburg.

In talking about when women enter the program, Bauer said, “We’re going to encourage them to find a power greater than themselves.”

Several panelists provided perspective into the opioid epidemic throughout the evening, all agreeing that a multi-faceted approach must be taken to find a solution, including increased access to treatment and early intervention efforts.

“We need more study, we need more information, we need more support because we still have a lot of work to do,” said DeLone.






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“Feed the Hungry”: Hunger Garden Planted at State Capitol

In an effort to serve those in need and to raise awareness of the problem of food insecurity in the state, lawmakers recently marked the ninth season opening of the Capitol Hunger Garden.

Located on the state Capitol grounds between the Main Capitol Building and the Ryan Office Building, the Capitol Hunger Garden provides healthy food for the Downtown Daily Bread soup kitchen in Harrisburg and serves as a valuable tool to raise awareness of hunger issues in Pennsylvania.

Led by Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), the Legislative Hunger Caucus this year is also partnering with the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to provide donated items to shelters, pantries and soup kitchens. 

The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank distributes more than 48 million pounds of food and grocery products, which adds up to more  than 40 million meals, every year to more than 900 soup kitchens, shelters, and food pantries in 27 central Pennsylvania counties.

Students at the Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School recently collected non-perishable food items to donate to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank such as, beverages, canned goods and pasta to help feed those in need.

Eighth grader Frankie Rivera said, “By helping them, we can help ourselves because the more we come together the stronger we can be.”







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Educational Savings Account Bill Clears Senate Committee

A plan to provide educational opportunities for at-risk students in Pennsylvania cleared a legislative hurdle on Tuesday, May 22, with the Senate Education Committee’s approval.

The proposal, Senate Bill 2, backed by state Senator John DiSanto would create state-funded, flexible, spending accounts for individual students.

Prior to the committee vote, DiSanto said, “This program is designed to help the children that are most vulnerable, the parents that have the least ability financially to provide for their children and it gives them a lifeline.”

Parents would be able to use the funds to pay for Department of Education-approved educational expenses such as non-public school tuition, higher education tuition, textbooks and curriculum, testing and industry certifications. Eligible expenses for children with disabilities would also include occupational, physical, speech and behavioral therapies. Parents will receive a portion of the statewide average funding per pupil (between $5,000 and $6,000), and students with special needs will be eligible for additional support based on their disability. Unused funds could roll over from one year to the next. Unspent ESA dollars could even be used to pay for college.

“Where ESAs are in place in the seven different states where they operate, they tend to help public schools improve because they have to compete.”

Under DiSanto’s plan, families in the low-performing school districts would have access to a state-funded, flexible spending account through an ESA. Families could direct the funds to a qualified school that best meets the needs of their child or to pay for other support to help their child succeed.

The full Senate will now take up the bill for a vote.







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2018 Primary Election Results

Pennsylvania’s Primary Election was held on Tuesday, May 15, effectively setting the stage for candidates who won their party’s nod to face off against each other in the general election this November.

The unofficial results of all races across Pennsylvania can be found on the state’s election returns website. You can search for results by county by clicking on the map or by choosing the title of the office.

The following statewide candidates will be running against each other in the general election:


Democrat – Governor Tom Wolf

Republican – Senator Scott Wagner



Democrat – John Fetterman

Republican – Jeff Bartos



Democrat – Senator Bob Casey

Republican – Congressman Lou Barletta

A number of congressional races in Pennsylvania are anticipated to be closely watched as a result of redrawn congressional maps. Primary election results of those races, as well as all state House and Senate races, can also be found at

While the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference neither supports nor opposes any candidate for public office, it does aim to educate and inform Catholics of a candidate’s position on a wide range of issues relative to human dignity, employment, education, housing, health care and more.








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Executive Changes at the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference

There will be a shift at the helm of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference beginning June 1, 2018. Eric A. Failing, PCC’s current social concerns director, will assume the role upon the retirement of Robert J. O’Hara, Jr. after his 21 years as executive director.

Prior to joining the PCC staff as social concerns director, Failing was vice president of sales, marketing and development for Pennsylvania Legislative Services. In his year since joining the PCC team, he has spearheaded efforts to pass bills that would ban the practice of abortion for a Down syndrome diagnosis in the womb, expand services to the poor, address the crisis of drug addiction, and other issues.

When he announced his plans to retire in March, O’Hara told that he counts programs that benefit Catholic school families, namely expanding the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC), among his proudest accomplishments.  He has also worked tirelessly to promote social concerns, access to health care for the poor, pro-life issues and the ability of religious organizations to operate according to their beliefs without government interference.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference was established in 1960 to give witness to spiritual values in public affairs and to provide an agency for corporate Catholic service to the statewide community. It serves as the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania. Its mission is to formulate positions on public policy issues, officially represent the Church before state government, and to foster a public understanding of the Church’s teaching and concern about morality, health, welfare, human rights, education and the common good.

The PCC gets involved with a wide variety of issues that span across the political spectrum. Visit for the latest news and legislative updates, to lend your voice to advancing the Church’s position in the State Capitol through the PA Catholic Advocacy Network.

Congratulations, Eric Failing, on your new job, and Bob O’Hara upon your retirement. Godspeed to you both!


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PA-CAPE Honors Achievements of Catholic School Administrators and Teachers

PA-CAPE award recipients at the ceremony in Harrisburg on May 2: (Far Left) Joseph Rosi (St. Thomas More School) and (Third from Left) Paul Larrea (Queen of Angels Regional Catholic School).

The Pennsylvania affiliate of the Council on American Private Education (PA CAPE) recently honored Pennsylvania’s brightest teachers, administrators, and schools in the private sector. The 2018 PA-CAPE Private School Teacher, Administrator, and School Awards included two winners from Catholic schools.

Joseph Rosi, St. Thomas More School, received the award for Administrator in Primary Grades 1-8.

Rosi’s nomination reads in-part:

Joe Rosi is the epitome of an administrator who leads by example. His kindness and empathy toward students has engendered a relationship of trust and mutual respect. Additionally, Joe has created a collaborative environment where teachers are encouraged to be empowered to think outside of the box.”

Paul Larrea, Queen of Angels Regional Catholic School, received the award for Middle School Educator in Grades 5-8.

Larrea’s nomination reads in-part:

“Paul Larrea embodies all of the essential characteristics of an effective educator and positive role model. He teaches with integrity, fairness, compassion and resiliency. His passion for education is unmistakable.”

PA-CAPE established the yearly awards ceremony to elevate the status of private education in the eyes of the communities they serve as well as the Pennsylvania legislature.



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