It has been a month since George Floyd died at the hands of a police officer. Two weeks ago we witnessed the death of Rayshard Brooks. Their deaths were preceded by those of Manuel Ellis, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others before them. These events are clear indicators that racism in its many forms still pervades our communities. They compel Catholics to open wide our hearts.
As Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call To Love – A Pastoral Letter Against Racism reminds us, racism is an evil that demeans our faith: “Every racist act – every such comment, every joke, every disparaging look as reaction to the color of skin, ethnicity, or place of origin – is a failure to acknowledge another person as a brother or sister, created in the image of God.” Furthermore, as Catholics we uphold the consistent ethic of life. In Open Wide Our Hearts, the bishops remind us that racism is a life issue: “Racism directly places brother and sister against each other, violating the inherent dignity in each person.”
In confronting racism we are called to identify the multiple ways it pervades society. In Open Wide Our Hearts the bishops recognize that racism may be the sin of an individual, but it is also the result of institutional practices. For example, as a disproportionate number of Black Americans experience economic and social disparity, the bishops write that, “The poverty experienced by many of these communities has its roots in racist policies that continue to impede the ability of people to find affordable housing, meaningful work, adequate education, and social mobility.”
Over the past several weeks we have witnessed peaceful protests and protests marred by destruction. Some destruction was caused by opportunists and looters falsely hiding under the guise of protestors. The church always advocates for non-violent, peaceful change. At the same time, we are reminded of Pope Paul VI’s words: “If you want peace, work for justice.” An end to protests will not bring about peace. Peace can only exist when we properly address the injustice and causes of racism.
In the recent aftermath of the deaths of Black Americans, Catholics are called to pray and act. As Archbishop Paul Etienne stated in “A Call to Address Racism in Our Hearts and Community,” we must “continue to pray and work together for the personal and societal conversions necessary to address the evils of racism.” The faithful are called to ongoing conversion as followers of Christ. Via conversion of our hearts we can bring about change in individuals, institutions, and society. This call to action is imperative. As noted in Open Wide Our Hearts, ” . . . too often racism comes in the form of the sin of omission, when individuals, communities, and even churches remain silent and fail to act against racial injustice when it is encountered.”
WA State Catholic Conference
In Blaine Amendment Challenge, Court Rules In Favor of Funding for Catholic Schools
On June 29 in a 5-4 ruling on Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states must give religious schools the same access to public funding as private schools. Lauding the decision, the bishops of the USCCB issued a statement saying, “The Court has rightly ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not permit states to discriminate against religion . . . By ensuring the rights of faith-based organizations’ freedom to serve, the Court is also promoting the common good.” Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue was a test of Montana’s “Blaine Amendment” of 1889. Blaine Amendments were first introduced by Senator James Blaine of Maine in 1875 and were designed to prevent Catholic schools from obtaining public funding. The bishops remarked, “The Court has also dealt a blow to the odious legacy of anti-Catholicism in America. Blaine Amendments, which are in 37 states’ constitutions, were the product of nativism and bigotry.”
Supreme Court Strikes Down Louisiana Abortion Law
This week the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 on June Medical Services v. Russo to strike down a Louisiana law requiring that abortion providers have hospital admitting privileges. This law would have limited the number of physicians eligible to perform abortions in the state. In a statement, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chair of the he U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee for Pro-Life Activities criticized the decision: “The Court’s failure to recognize the legitimacy of law prioritizing women’s health and safety over abortion business interests continues a cruel precedent. As we grieve this decision and the pregnant women who will be harmed by it, we continue to pray and fight for justice for mothers and children.” In conjunction with the Louisiana State Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals, the USCCB filed this amicus curae brief to the Court.
U.S. Bishops Welcome Supreme Court DACA Ruling; Urge the U.S. Senate To Act
On June 18 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 opinion preventing the Trump administration from terminating the Deferred Acton for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Court noted that the administration had acted “arbitrarily and capriciously.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a statement welcoming the decision.
DACA was initiated by the Department of Homeland Security in 2012. DACA provides temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. DACA participants cannot have felonies or serious misdemeanors on their records. There are currently approximately 700,000 DACA recipients.
While the Supreme Court ruling was in favor of DACA, President Trump may make another attempt to end the program. The USCCB is calling for legislation to address these immigration policies. Last year the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R.6), which provides a pathway to citizenship for those brought to the US as children. In a statement last month the USCCB urged the Senate to act now and pass companion legislation. Send a message to your U.S. Senators to urge them to pass legislation protecting those brought to the U.S. as children.
USCCB Calls On Administration To Reverse Course On Federal Executions
One year ago the federal government resumed the practice of executing death-row inmates and scheduled executions for the first time since 2003. The executions are scheduled to begin July 13, 2020. This week the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of the death row inmates. In a statement, Archbishop Paul Coakley, Chair of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said, “. . . the death penalty is unacceptable as an affront to the Gospel and to respect for human life.” Archbishop Coakley called on the Trump Administration to reverse course on presiding over federal executions.
Bishop Chairmen Call for Better Police Formation and Accountability
The USCCB sent a letter to U.S. Congress members calling for “better practices for formation and accountability for police, certainly in the use of lethal force, but also in patterns of discrimination and prejudice, so that real accountability can happen before more lives are lost.” The bishops noted: “Police operating under high standards perform a valuable service for the promotion of the common good in society.” Policy proposals thought to be “steps in the right direction” include collection of data on use-of-force, training towards de-escalation, work to end racial profiling, doing away with choke holds, using body cameras, greater accountability and means of redress regarding those who exercise public authority, and a commission for further study. In citing solutions to current challenges, the bishops quoted Pope Paul VI: “If you want peace, work for justice.”
USCCB President Issues Statement on Supreme Court Decision On Legal Definition of “Sex” In Civil Rights Law
On June 15 the Supreme Court decision on Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., Altitude Express v. Zarda, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Opportunity Employment Comm’n. determined that the prohibition of sex discrimination in employment in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 now prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status. In response,USCCB President, Archbishop José H. Gomez, issued a statement indicating concern “that the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law.” He also added, “Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination does not require redefining human nature.” Amicus curiae briefs from the USCCB on the court cases may be accessed here and here.
USCCB Committee on Migration Chair Calls for Protection of Refugees
Marking World Refugee Day on June 19, Bishop Mario Dorsonville, USCCB Chair of the Committee on Migration, issued a statement calling for the protection of refugees: “We recognize refugees’ and our own human fragility, and as such, urge a more humane and compassionate embrace of those seeking refuge in our communities, in our country and in our world.” According to U.S. law, a refugee is a person who is forced to flee his or her home country due to persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of his or her nationality, race, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Refugees migrate out of necessity, often in the context of civil unrest, armed conflict, or other violence. There are 68.5 million forced migrants worldwide. The majority of forced migrants remain in their home countries, but 25.5 million are forced to flee their homeland and seek refuge elsewhere. The Presidential Determination for establishing the number of refugees that can resettle in the U.S. this year is currently 18,000 – an all-time low for the third consecutive year. According to Catholic teaching, every human being is created in the image of God and is therefore entitled to dignity and respect. Jesus Christ himself was a migrant and child of refugees who fled persecution. As Christians we are called to welcome our neighbors with love and compassion and provide support and care for refugees throughout the international community. See USCCB’s Justice for Immigrants for additional information.
Civilize It Campaign
Monday was the final day of Religious Freedom Week, and the day’s theme focused on USCCB’s Civilize It project. As Catholics we are called to put our faith into action by advocating for public policies that promote the common good. As we navigate the political process we are also called to engage in good, honest, respectful dialogue. In today’s divisive political environment, the faithful must treat everyone with respect as we are all worthy of being heard. Even when we disagree with others, we must remember that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ created in the image of God. In this important election year, visit the Civilize It webpage to take the following pledge:
To recognize the human dignity of those with whom I disagree, treat others with respect, and rise above attacks when directed at me.
To root my political viewpoints in the Gospel and a well formed conscience, which involves prayer, conversation, study and listening. I will stand up for my convictions and speak out when I witness language that disparages others’ dignity, while also listening and seeking to understand others’ experiences.
To encounter others with a tone and posture which affirms that I honor the dignity of others and invites others to do the same. I will presume others’ best intentions and listen to their stories with empathy. I will strive to understand before seeking to be understood.
Action Alert: Support Catholic Schools
As the economy has slowed during the pandemic, so has funding for Catholic schools in Washington. Parents face difficulty paying tuition, and parishes supporting Catholic schools are impacted by decreased collections. Joining a coalition of 150 other organizations, the USCCB recently wrote this letter to Congressional leadership, urging them to support Catholic and private school education in response to COVID-19 disruptions. Requests were made for grants for low to middle-income families for tuition and tax credits for scholarship funds. Click on this action alert to urge your US Congressional leaders to include Catholic schools in COVID-19 relief programs. Catholic schools are integral to the education system in Washington state. They provide $302 million in annual savings to Washington taxpayers, educating over 28,000 students. In comparing school district sizes, the Catholic school system would rank as the fifth largest school district in the state. Act now to support Catholic education.
Referendum and Initiative Updates
Pro-Life Initiative 1698
Thank you to those who signed and gathered signatures for Initiative 1698 (I-1698)! Signatures are currently being processed and counted. 259,622 signatures are needed to put this Initiative to the People on the fall ballot.
I-1698 is a pro-life initiative that will require an ultrasound be performed prior to an abortion. An abortion will then be prohibited if a fetal heartbeat is detected. Exceptions will be made for cases preventing the death of a pregnant woman and for cases involving a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of a pregnant woman. Abortions performed under these circumstances will be reported to the Washington State Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Petition signatures may be collected on church premises pending approval of the pastor. Additional initiative details are available on the WSCC website.
Record Number of Signatures Collected for Referendum 90
Thank you for signing and collecting Referendum 90 (R-90) signatures! R-90 gives voters the opportunity to reject the new law requiring state school districts to provide Comprehensive Sexual Health Education (CSHE) for grades kindergarten through 12. 266,000 signatures were collected – a state record and double the required number of signatures. R-90 has been certified by the Secretary of State to be on the fall ballot. Additional information about R-90 maybe found on the WSCC website.
USCCB Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection: Annual Report Released
Ways to be Catholic and Politically Active: A Series for Young Adults (YA)
Young adults (18-39) are invited to attend an election year series focusing on Ways to Be Catholic and Politically Active. The next meeting is today at 7 pm via Zoom. Topic: Civil Discourse in The 21st century. Details are available on the Facebook page for Western Washington Catholic Young Adults. Contact: Megan Pepin, email@example.com.
July 1 Ways to be Catholic and Politically Active: Civil Discourse in the 21st Century (see above).
Sep 27 World Day of Migrants and Refugees
October Respect Life Month
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