U.S. Church News

N.Y. bishops recommit to pro-life outreach, ask all Catholics to join them

By  Catholic News Service

New York bishops who head the state's Catholic dioceses are shown clockwise from top left: Bishop John O. Barres of Rockville Centre; Bishop Michael W. Fisher of Buffalo; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Bishop Terry R. LaValley of Ogdensburg; Bishop Douglas J. Lucia of Syracuse; Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Brooklyn; Bishop Salvatore R. Matano of Rochester; and Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany. (CNS composite; photos by Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic; Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard; Gregory A. Shemitz; Gregory A. Shemitz; Chuck Wainwright, Catholic Sun; Gregory A. Shemitz; Vermont Catholic; Paul Haring)

ALBANY, N.Y. (CNS) -- The Catholic bishops of New York state said May 12 that regardless of what the U.S. Supreme Court decides about Roe v. Wade in its final ruling on the Dobbs case from Mississippi, "abortion in New York would continue unfettered."

Catholics must respond "in charity and with sensitivity, but with clarity" to those for whom the prospect of an overturning of Roe v. Wade has led to "fear and anxiety," in particular to women facing sometimes overwhelming challenges of unplanned pregnancies, they said.

The bishops made the comments in a major statement titled "Toward a Pro-Life Future in the Empire State."

A news release said the bishops "address head-on the false notion that the church is more concerned with the baby in the womb than with the mother and child once he or she is born."

"It is incumbent upon us as shepherds to acknowledge and address that misperception," the bishops said.

"As far back as the 1980s, the late John Cardinal O'Connor, a giant of the pro-life movement, made a pledge that we reaffirm today: Any woman -- regardless of age, religious belief or affiliation, marital status or immigration status -- who is pregnant and in need, can come to the Catholic Church and we will give you the services and supports you need to carry your baby to term, regardless of your ability to pay," the bishops said.

"We will not abandon you and your baby after delivery, but, rather, we will see to it that you have the resources that you and your child both need and deserve. No one will be turned away from life-affirming care," they continued. "If you have had an abortion that you regret, whether recently or in the distant past, please come to us as well, so that we may offer you services to help you to heal."

They also announced "a renewed pastoral effort" to help pregnant women in need and those families expecting a new child who are in financial difficulty.

"We ask every Catholic parish, every Catholic Charities program, every Catholic health facility, every Catholic school, every Catholic college and university, and every religious community in our state to proactively engage with us in this pastoral effort," the bishops said.

They are "challenging every Catholic entity in the state to join them" in this effort. Through the New York State Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in the state, the bishops gathered a list of many of the available resources at www.nyscatholic.org/HelpForMoms.

Also on the website is a map to all Catholic parishes, schools and Catholic Charities agencies in the state -- www.nyscatholic.org/places.

The bishops also said state and local governments "must do their part as well."

"Elected officials constantly fall over themselves in rushing to announce new initiatives to ever expand abortion in order to garner votes," they said.

"Programs to support women who make the choice to keep their babies, to the extent that they exist at all, are starved for funding and are not well promoted," they said. "Yet many political leaders typically cater more to abortion providers and advocates than to women who might well make a different choice, if only they were aware of and had other options."

The statement was signed by signed by: Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Bishops Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, Robert J. Brennan of Brooklyn, Michael W. Fisher of Buffalo, Terry R. LaValley of Ogdensburg, Salvatore R. Matano of Rochester, John O. Barres of Rockville Centre, and Douglas J. Lucia of Syracuse.

It was issued in light of "the gathering societal unrest over the issue of abortion," especially after an initial draft of a Supreme Court opinion leaked May 2 indicated the high court is set to overturn its Roe v. Wade decision, which 50 years ago legalized abortion nationwide.

The court also is expected to overturn its 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which affirmed Roe and prohibited regulations that created an "undue burden" on women seeking an abortion.

If the final ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturns Roe and Casey, the issue of abortion would be returned to the states. Justice Samuel Alito is writing the majority opinion.

"Through the years, advocates for legal abortion have skillfully framed the narrative as one of 'choice' and 'reproductive freedom,' completely ignoring the biological reality of what abortion is: the intentional killing of an innocent child in the womb," the bishops said.

"Even as sonogram technology and advances in neonatal medicine clearly show us the truth that what is being 'terminated' is a human life, the pro-abortion movement refuses to address the science."

The abortion industry's messaging "has been so successful" that "the right to abortion has become inextricably linked to the notion of women's rights and equality for a significant portion of the country, which is why the prospect of a nation without Roe has led to fear and anxiety for many people," they continued.

"Millions of our fellow Americans -- even, it must be said, many of our fellow Catholics -- have succumbed to this false notion, and we must respond to it in charity and with sensitivity, but with clarity."

"The fears and anxieties of a young woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy are valid," they said. "She is likely terrified. She may be overwhelmed with a plethora of legitimate questions: How will she provide for her other children with another baby on the way? Will the father abandon her? Will she be able to continue her education? Where will she and her family live? Who will provide child care when she goes back to work? For many, abortion seems the only way out."

"These feelings are real, and the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy are difficult. This presents a pastoral challenge for bishops, clergy, church leaders and, indeed, for all faithful Catholics," they said.

In a 12-point section at the end of the statement, the bishops lay out their vision of a New York state where all work together across all sectors to do more for pregnant women and families in need so that no woman in a crisis pregnancy is ever made "to feel that she has no choice but to abort."

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Editor's Note: The full text of the New York bishops statement can be found at https://www.nyscatholic.org/nys-bishops-prolife.

Biden administration defends giving migrant children baby formula

By Rhina Guidos Catholic News Service

Cynthia, a migrant from Honduras seeking asylum in the U.S., holds a bottle of baby formula for her 3-year-old daughter, Alicia, as she waits to board a bus to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Roma, Texas, May 13, 2022. (CNS photo/Adrees Latif, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The White House said providing baby formula to migrants at the border, even as the country faces a shortage of it, is "morally the right thing to do."

Jen Psaki, in her final news conference as White House press secretary May 13, responded to a question that arose from claims by Republicans, such as Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York and Kat Cammack of Florida, who tweeted two photos May 11.

Cammack said one of the photos showed stocked shelves of baby formula at a detention center for migrants. It was juxtaposed with a photo of shelves of baby formula that were half empty.

"The first photo is from this morning at the Ursula Processing Center at the U.S. border. Shelves and pallets packed with baby formula," the congresswoman tweeted. "The second is from a shelf right here at home. Formula is scarce. This is what America last looks like."

Psaki pointed to a law that requires the government to provide drinking water, food as appropriate, medical assistance, and other standards of care to immigrant children in government custody.

Referring to Stefanik, Psaki said that "she may or may not be aware of" the law "that's been in place since 1997. It requires adequate food and elsewhere, specifies age appropriateness, hence formula for kids under the age of 1."

On May 16, baby formula producer Abbott and the Food and Drug Administration agreed on plans that may help reopen a factory in Michigan by the end of May. Its closure, after recalls, contributed to the shortage, some said. Hoarding of the product and a labor shortage also are said to be factors that have contributed to the situation. But it may take weeks to alleviate the shortage.

Groups such as Make the Road, a national pro-immigrant organization, chided politicians for trying to pin the blame on immigrants for the shortages.

"We are talking about a nationwide baby formula shortage, families who cannot access a basic supplement. This should be a national emergency, not a political football," said Barbara Lopez, director of Make the Road in Connecticut in a May 13 statement. "Our communities have historically been targeted and blamed for the suffering of this country. But enough is enough.

"The U.S. has always prided itself on being a beacon of safety for those fleeing danger," she continued. "Our country is at its best when we welcome those in need of protection, regardless of their immigration status and the color of their skin."

Life, legacy of 'labor priest' Msgr. Higgins recalled at AFL-CIO forum

By Mark Pattison Catholic News Service

Panelists are seen during the May 2, 2022, virtual discussion about the legacy of Msgr. George Higgins and the relationship between the labor movement and the Catholic Church, then and now. (CNS photo/courtesy Catholic Labor Network) 

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Labor advocates were urged to follow the legacy of Msgr. George Higgins, the foremost "labor priest" of the 20th century, during a May 2 forum celebrating the Chicago priest's efforts on behalf of workers.

"If you look around today, you can see the true measure of the impact Msgr. Higgins made on the labor movement," said Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO president. "He truly was labor's priest. He dedicated his life to bringing the labor movement and the faith community together, wherever working people are lifting their voices from the grape fields of California in the Modesto valley to the coal fields of Harlan County, Kentucky."

Msgr. Higgins died in 2002 on May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, at age 86. In addition to his advocacy for workers, unions and the labor movement, he drafted the U.S. bishops' annual Labor Day message for decades and wrote a weekly column, "The Yardstick," which was syndicated by Catholic News Service for 56 years, from 1945 to 2001. He also worked with the AFL-CIO to keep the labor federation neutral on the abortion issue.

Shuler listed Msgr. Higgins as one among many Catholic labor figures who mentored and inspired her, including her predecessor as AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka; John Sweeney, who preceded Trumka, and who "continues to be a person who impacts me, in particular his faith"; and her "spiritual advisers," Father Clete Kiley, director of immigration policy for the UNITE HERE union, and Joseph McCartin, director of Georgetown University's Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.

"The Holy Spirit is at our back," Shuler declared, adding that "it takes a committee to make a mighty change. ... That's what the Apostles did, too."

Father Kiley said as a Chicago archdiocesan seminarian, Msgr. Higgins had to have been influenced by his rector at Mundelein Seminary, where, "I can tell you, every brick, every wire, every toilet, was made union." Further, rather than the typical practice of the day in keeping worldly influences from seminarians, the rector encouraged students to "get their hands on a newspaper" to stay engaged with the larger world.

After Msgr. Higgins' death, Father Kiley said someone lamented to him, "With Msgr. Higgins gone, the labor priests are dead." But that's been proven wrong, he added.

"It's clear that the mantle of Elijah has been passed on to a new generation -- not just priests, but Catholic labor organizations and lay ecclesial ministers. And I believe Msgr. Higgins would absolutely be delighted to see this," Father Kiley said.

"The dignity of work and the centrality of participation to justice," said Meghan Clark, an associate professor of moral theology at St. John's University in New York City. Too often, that is often confined to salaries and benefits, and not its "correlation to the common good," she added.

"Work is not how we earn our daily bread. It is what makes us co-creators with God," Clark asserted. "There is always a priority for labor over capital," as demonstrated, she said by the adage: "We are made for work, not work is made for us.

"It is through work that we inhabit and develop our dignity," Clark said, adding there is "just not enough of it" in our present age. "That is evident in Msgr. Higgins' ministry to see the world as it truly is, but think of what it can be."

"I came to the church when the church came to workers and stood up with them," said Chuck Hendricks, a labor organizer for 24 years and a Catholic for 12.

He recalled trying to organize painters at Loyola University Maryland. "It was terrifying to get a $5,000 bill in the mail" for his daughter's medical care, he said. The painters were "subjected to a horrible anti-union campaign, and I was fired on that campus," he said, adding that the experience made him "more determined to organize."

Hendricks was hired by UNITE HERE to organize casino workers in Palm Springs, California. He said he got his first taste of how the church could act for good when a pastor in Palm Springs "committed civil disobedience when the company cut off their health insurance."

A turning point for Hendricks was an organizing subcontract food service workers at DePaul University in Chicago. "They were fighting for the right to have a union, affordable health care and a living wage, he said, adding he was amazed by the priests and students who backed the drive.

But he saved his highest regard for the student who headed DePaul's right-to-life club on campus. According to Hendricks, she told university leaders: "The right to health care is the right to life." "When she confronted them about that issue, you really got to see the university start to turn," he said.

"It opened the door to my conversion to Catholicism. It forces us to choose between a church that is safe ... and one that is challenging for those with a lot of privilege."

Father Evelio Menjivar, pastor of St. Mary Parish in the Washington suburb of Landover Hills, Maryland, was in the first group of 28 new labor priests trained to rebut the "labor priests are dead" remark.

"This is part of bringing glad tidings to the poor and liberty to captives," Father Menjivar said of his new ministry. "So many times, the blind are us -- not those outside but us -- most especially priests and bishops," he added.

"I know somebody close to our family who was not paid," Father Menjivar said. The person was an immigrant whose boss refused to pay his wages. "There are people who were exploited right to our faces."

Father Menjivar said: "The word 'solidarity' is a little-known word and poorly understood, but it is more than a few general acts of charity. In terms of the community and the priority for all over the life of all appropriation of goods by the many."

He added: "The church is all the baptized. We are the salt of the world. But many times we aren't doing our job."

"Is it bad to support unions?" he asked. "No, it is not. Actually, it is good that you're doing that. It's a great contribution we pastors can offer the people: 'This is part of the social Catholic teaching.'" But he further asked: "What is the problem with people in passing immigration reform? It is the same thing, that Catholics are not supporting immigration.

"We teach the whole faith, not only some issues."

Clark had a similar finding: "What is more frustrating, and mostly sad, when I teach Catholic social teaching to scores of 18- to 22-year-olds, the biggest resistance to it is kids forming from Catholic high schools. The most active in their parishes on average are coming in the most resistant to Catholic social teaching."

"We're a bit fractured. We don't have the alignment," Father Kiley said. What's more, he noted, is that "our bishops are probably as divided" as lay Catholics, if one recent poll is to be believed. "We have to do everything we can in our given callings in life to strengthen that alignment."

For his part, he said: "I've stopped using 'Catholic social teaching.' If it's doctrine, we have to call it Catholic social doctrine."

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