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House Tax Reform Bill “Unacceptable” as Written, Say U.S. Bishops Chairmen

WASHINGTON—In a letter of November 9, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Bishop George V. Murry, SJ of Youngstown, Ohio called for amendments to the current draft of the House of Representatives tax reform bill "for the sake of families" and "for those struggling on the peripheries of society who have a claim on our national conscience."

"Doubling the standard deduction will help some of those in poverty to avoid tax liability, and this is a positive good contained in the bill," wrote the Bishops of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. "However, as written, this proposal appears to be the first federal income tax modification in American history that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy. This is simply unconscionable."

Bishop Dewane is the Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Cantú chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Bishop Murry heads the Committee on Catholic Education.

According to the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), households with income of $20,000 and $40,000 per year will see their taxes raised in 2023, 2025, and again in 2027. Taxes will also increase on average taxpayers earning between $10,000 and $20,000 in 2025.  At the same time, significant tax breaks to the very wealthy—including millionaires and billionaires—are projected for each year.

The bishop-chairmen highlighted positive provisions in the areas of education and modest increases to child tax credits, but stressed that the bill places "new and unreasonable burdens on families," and must be changed. Included among them are the elimination of: the adoption tax credit and adoption assistance program exclusion, the personal exemption (which will harm many larger families), the out-of-pocket medical expenses deduction, and incentives to employees and employers dependent care assistance or child care, among others.

The letter also cautioned that the deficit could "be used as an argument to further restrict or end programs that help those in need, programs which are investments to help pull struggling families out of poverty." Finally, the Bishops called for fixes to disincentives for charitable giving and affordable housing and community revitalization development projects that will result from the legislation.

The full letter can be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Tax-Cuts-and-Jobs-Act-Letter-11-9-2017.pdf.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Bishop Oscar Cantú, Bishop George V. Murry, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Committee on International Justice and Peace, Committee on Catholic Education, U.S. House of Representatives, Joint Committee on Taxation, tax reform bill, amendments, standard deductions, federal income tax,  adoption tax credit, adoption assistance program, medical deductions, dependent care assistance, charitable giving, affordable housing, community revitalization.

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Judy Keane
Media Contact
202-541-3200

Appeal Supports Retirement Needs of Elderly Sisters, Brothers, Religious Order Priests

WASHINGTON—The 30th appeal for the Retirement Fund for Religious will be held Dec. 9-10 in most U.S. Catholic parishes. The annual, parish-based collection is coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) and benefits some 32,000 aging Catholic sisters, brothers and priests in religious orders.  

Catholic bishops of the United States initiated the collection in 1988 to help address the deficit in retirement savings among the nation's religious congregations. Proceeds are distributed to eligible congregations to help underwrite retirement and health-care expenses. Roughly 94 percent of donations aid elderly religious.

"We continue to be amazed and grateful for the outpouring of support for senior religious and their communities," said Presentation Sister Stephanie Still, the NRRO's executive director.

The 2016 appeal raised more than $30 million. The NRRO distributed $25 million in financial assistance to 390 religious communities across the country. Religious communities combine this funding with their own income and savings to meet a host of eldercare needs, including medications and nursing care. Throughout the year, additional funding is allocated to provide expanded assistance to religious communities with significant retirement-funding deficits. A portion of the proceeds also supports education in retirement planning and eldercare delivery.

While support from the Retirement Fund for Religious has helped many religious communities to stabilize retirement accounts, hundreds of others continue to lack sufficient resources to fully provide for older members. Most senior religious worked for little to no pay, leaving their religious communities with inadequate retirement savings. At the same time, religious communities are challenged by the rising cost of care. Last year, the average annual cost of care for senior religious was $42,000 per person, while skilled care averaged more than $63,000, according to NRRO data. In 2016, the total cost of care for women and men religious past age 70 exceeded $1.2 billion.

Proceeds from the collection underwrite financial assistance, educational programming and hands-on consultation that help religious communities reduce funding deficits, enhance eldercare and plan for long-term needs. "Our goal is to help religious communities meet today's retirement needs while preparing for the ones to come—so that religious young and old can continue to serve the People of God," said Sister Still.

More information is available at www.retiredreligious.org.

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Keywords: National Religious Retirement Office, NRRO, retirement, eldercare, U.S. bishops, Sister Stephanie Still, USCCB, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Collection

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

USCCB Migration and Refugee Services Releases Report Recommending Extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS), released its report today, entitled Haiti's Ongoing Road to Recovery: The Necessity of an Extension of Temporary Protected Status, recommending the U.S. government extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti. 

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, in a letter introducing the report, states: "[W]hile conditions in Haiti are improving, the country is not yet in a position where it can adequately and safely accept return of the estimated 50,000 Haitian nationals who have received TPS."

A delegation from USCCB/MRS traveled to Haiti, from September 4-7, 2017, to examine the progress Haiti had made since its initial designation for TPS in 2010 and the challenges that remain. The delegation also assessed the ability of the country to safely accept and reintegrate returned nationals should TPS for Haiti be terminated. USCCB/MRS Committee Member, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Florida, led the delegation and was accompanied by Bishop Launay Saturné of Jacmel, Haiti, as well as staff from MRS and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

Currently, there are an estimated 50,000 Haitians living in the U.S. with TPS. Through its work in Haiti and in the United States, the Catholic Church knows these individuals to be hardworking contributors to American communities, Catholic parishes, and our nation. Unfortunately, Haitian TPS recipients are living in a state of uncertainty and flux as Haiti's current TPS designation is set to expire on January 22, 2018, with the Administration required to make a decision to extend or terminate the status by November 23, 2017.

Bishop Vásquez states in his introductory letter: "We urge the Administration to provide an 18-month extension of TPS for Haiti to ensure recipients' continued protection while their country rebuilds. We further urge Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for TPS recipients who have been in the United States for many years."

This report and other resources related to TPS are available on the Justice for Immigrants website at: www.justiceforimmigrants.org. Resources include a backgrounder on TPS, a toolkit for Catholic leaders that offers ideas on how to show their support and solidarity with TPS recipients, and the USCCB/MRS report on TPS for El Salvador and Honduras.

The full text of the Haiti report can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/fact-finding-mission-reports/upload/mrs-haiti-trip-report.pdf.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Bishop Launay Saturné of Jacmel, Haiti, U.S. Congress, legislative solution, Justice for Immigrants, El Salvador, Honduras.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Migration Chairman Responds to Automatic Six-Month Extension of Temporary Protected Status for Honduras

WASHINGTON— On November 6th, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it needs more time to assess country conditions before rendering a final decision on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduras, thereby automatically extending the current TPS designation for Honduras for six months, through July 5, 2018. TPS is a temporary, renewable, and statutorily authorized humanitarian migration program that permits individuals to remain and work lawfully in the U.S. during a period in which it is deemed unsafe for nationals of that country to return home. There are an estimated 57,000 Hondurans in the U.S. with TPS.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM), issued the following statement:

"I appreciate that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is seriously evaluating country conditions in Honduras. The automatic extension while DHS continues its evaluation is the right thing to do for the Honduran TPS recipients living in the United States, for the continued prosperity and growth of Honduras, and for the security in the region. DHS should take this time to vigorously look at conditions on the ground in Honduras, to comprehensively note the existing violence and security threats to citizens, the nascent but growing protection infrastructure, the ongoing poverty, and the environmental degradation that continue to exist in Honduras. Our recent report "Temporary Protected Status: A Vital Piece of the Central American Protection and Prosperity Puzzle," highlights such concerns. As DHS continues this process, we pledge continued engagement, information gathering, and cooperation with both the U.S. government and our Catholic partners in Honduras who provide extensive social welfare services in partnership with the U.S. and Honduran government.

While appreciative of DHS's attention to this issue, my continued thoughts and prayers are with Honduran TPS recipients and their families who still face uncertainty in their situation here in the United States. I also support efforts in Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for long-term TPS recipients.

TPS recipients have deep ties to our communities, parishes, and country. They are businesses owners, successful professionals, home owners, parents of U.S. citizen children, and most importantly, children of God. We must find a solution for these individuals and their families, and we stand ready to support Congress in its effort to do so."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe Vasquez, Committee on Migration, Migration and Refugee Services, Temporary Protected Status, TPS recipients, TPS beneficiaries, Department of Homeland Security, DHS, Congress, Honduras, El Salvador, refugees, migration, prayers, legislative solution

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

U.S. Bishops Fall General Assembly to be Live Streamed, Live Tweeted, Carried Via Satellite, #USCCB17

WASHINGTON—The 2017 Fall General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Baltimore will be live streamed on the Internet, November 13-14, and will be available via satellite for broadcasters wishing to air it. The live stream will be available at:  http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/usccb-general-assembly-live-stream.cfm.

News updates, vote totals, texts of addresses and presentations and other materials will be posted to this page: www.usccb.org/meetings.

Those wishing to follow the meeting on social media can use the hashtag #USCCB17 and visit USCCB's Twitter handle for live events (https://twitter.com/usccblive), as well as on Facebook (www.facebook.com/usccb) and Instagram (https://instagram.com/usccb).

During the assembly, the bishops will elect a new secretary for the Conference and Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, will also give his first address to the body of bishops as President of the USCCB as he completes the first year of his three-year term.

The bishops will also vote for new chairmen-elect of the following five USCCB committees: Committee on Communications, Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, Committee on National Collections, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Committee on Doctrine. They will also vote for a new Chairman for the Committee for Religious Liberty.  Bishop nominees for the board of directors for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) will also elected.

In addition, the body of bishops will also hear an update from the bishops working group on immigration, among other reports.

Media outlets interested in taking the meeting's satellite feed may request coordinates by email. Live stream and satellite feed is expected to run Monday, November 13, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Eastern, and Tuesday, November 14, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Eastern.

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Keywords: USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Fall General Assembly, November meeting, Baltimore, #usccb17, live stream.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Domestic Justice Chairman Urges True Debate on Gun Violence

WASHINGTON—In the aftermath of the recent and horrific attacks in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged national leaders to engage in a true debate about solutions to gun violence.

The full statement follows:

"For many years, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been urging our leaders to explore and adopt reasonable policies to help curb gun violence. The recent and shocking events in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs remind us of how much damage can be caused when weapons—particularly weapons designed to inflict extreme levels of bloodshed—too easily find their way into the hands of those who would wish to use them to harm others.

Violence in our society will not be solved by a single piece of legislation, and many factors contribute to what we see going on all around us. Even so, our leaders must engage in a real debate about needed measures to save lives and make our communities safer. The USCCB continues to urge a total ban on assault weapons, which we supported when the ban passed in 1994 and when Congress failed to renew it in 2004.

In addition, the bishops have supported:

  • Measures that control the sale and use of firearms, such as universal background checks for all gun purchases;

  • Limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines;

  • A federal law to criminalize gun trafficking;

  • Improved access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence;

  • Regulations and limitations on the purchasing of handguns; and

  • Measures that make guns safer, such as locks that prevent children and anyone other than the owner from using the gun without permission and supervision. 

While acknowledging the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and related jurisprudence, we live in a fallen world with daily advances in modern technology. Some weapons are increasingly capable of easily causing mass murder when used with an evil purpose. Society must recognize that the common good requires reasonable steps to limit access to such firearms by those who would intend to use them in that way."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, Texas, gun violence, Las Vegas, high-capacity weapons, gun trafficking, Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution, common good.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Acquires Catholic.Bible

WASHINGTON—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has acquired Catholic.Bible.

The domain serves as the home base for resources for National Bible Week. This year's National Bible Week celebration takes place November 12-18. In recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the theme for this year is The Bible: A Book of Faith/ La Biblia: Un Libro de la Fe.

In addition, Catholic.Bible is the place to also find Lectio Divina resources (English and Spanish) for every Sunday of the year, an expansion of past years' resources which were limited to Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter.

Other resources available on Catholic.Bible include:

  • A survey on Bible use among Catholics sponsored by American Bible Society

  • An RSS feed of the daily readings in English and Spanish

  • A link to the New American Bible, revised edition (NABRE)

More resources will be added in the months ahead. Catholic.Bible went live, October 31.

The .Bible top-level domain is a trusted online source for all things Bible. The mission of .Bible is to encourage Bible engagement, translation, innovation, and global partnerships so that all people may experience the life-changing message that the Bible gives us.

The American Bible Society, a Christian ministry that has equipped people to engage with the life-changing message of God's Word for over 200 years, operates the .BIBLE registry.

Please visit Catholic.Bible at https://catholic.bible/.

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Catholic.Bible, American Bible Society, National Bible Week, Catechism of the Catholic Church, La Biblia: Un Libro de la Fe, Lectio Divina, New American Bible, NABRE.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

President of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Responds to Mass Shooting in Texas

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued the following statement in response to today's mass shooting during a church service in Sutherland Springs, Texas. 

Cardinal DiNardo's full statement follows:

"Earlier today, we heard of the mass shooting at the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  With Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, I extend my prayers and the prayers of my brother bishops for the victims, the families, the first responders, our Baptist brothers and sisters, indeed the whole community of Sutherland Springs. We stand in unity with you in this time of terrible tragedy—as you stand on holy ground, ground marred today by horrific violence.   

We ask the Lord for healing of those injured, His loving care of those who have died and the consolation of their families.   

This incomprehensibly tragic event joins an ever-growing list of mass shootings, some of which were also at Churches while people were worshipping and at prayer.  We must come to the firm determination that there is a fundamental problem in our society. A Culture of Life cannot tolerate, and must prevent, senseless gun violence in all its forms. May the Lord, who Himself is Peace, send us His Spirit of charity and nonviolence to nurture His peace among us all."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archdiocese Galveston-Houston, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, Archdiocese of San Antonio, Sutherland Springs, Texas, Baptists, brothers and sisters, Culture of Life, consolation, prayer. 

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Approves $85,900 in Grants

WASHINGTON—This Fall 2017, for the first time, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) awarded grants in the amount of $85,900 for four projects that support the goals of the CCD to promote Catholic biblical literacy and Catholic biblical interpretation.

Funding for these grants comes from the royalties received from the publication of the New American Bible and its derivative works which the CCD develops, publishes, promotes, and distributes.

The four projects sponsored by the CCD are as follows:

  • $11,750 to Dr. Todd Hibbard (Associate Professor, University of Detroit Mercy) for field research in Jerusalem related to his project on the rhetoric of urban destruction in the prophetic books of the Old Testament. This research will inform the forthcoming monograph, Prophets and Prophecy in Ancient Israel and Judah: A Phenomenological Approach.

  • $11,800 to Father Robert Lapko (Moderator for the Centre for Biblical and Near Eastern Studies of the Archdiocese of Košice, Slovakia) to provide partial financial support for continuing biblical education and formation of Slovak clergy through seminars, and intensive summer school for biblical languages, and a study trip to the Holy Land.

  • $17,350 to Dr. Patrick Russell (Chief Academic Officer and Professor of Scripture Studies, Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, Hales Corners, WI) for a project to ascertain the most effective preaching strategies employed by priests that lead parishioners to more profound encounters, focusing on the Gospel parables in the Sunday Lectionary for Mass.

  • $45,000 to Dr. Nathan Eubank and Dr. Markus Bockmuehl (Keble College, University of Oxford) for 12-month research project designed to contribute to renewed understanding of the relationship between Scripture and the early Christian creeds, particularly, the Apostles' Creed.

The CCD works with the Catholic Biblical Association (CBA) to offer these grants accepting applications only from the CBA, including the organization itself, its designees, and its active and associate members. In fidelity to Dei Verbum, the CBA's purpose is to promote scholarly study in Scripture and related fields by meetings of the association, publications, and support to those engaged in such studies.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, CCD, Catholic Biblical Association, CBA, Dei Verbum, New American Bible, biblical scholarship, pastoral programs, biblical literacy, biblical interpretation, grants

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

U.S. Bishops Chairman Urges Prudence and Thoughtful Deliberation on Tax Reform

WASHINGTON—Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chair of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged the U.S. House of Representatives toward prudence, ensuring that they and the nation understand fully the impacts of tax reform proposals before voting on them.

The full statement follows:

"The USCCB is currently studying the U.S. House of Representatives' 'Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,' which was released yesterday, and will be releasing a more detailed statement soon. The changes proposed in this bill are significant and complex, affecting the entire nation. Current information indicates that the House is planning to move this bill quickly through the legislative process. However, prudence requires that members of Congress and the people of the country have adequate time to fully understand and debate the consequences of any tax bill so that decisions serve the dignity of the human person and the common good. This is not a moment for hurried action, but thoughtful deliberation.

It is imperative, too, that lawmakers consider the tax bill through the lens of the moral principles outlined in our letter of one week ago:

  • Caring for the poor;

  • Strengthening families;

  • Maintaining progressivity of the tax code;

  • Raising adequate revenue for the common good;

  • Avoiding cuts to poverty programs to finance tax reform;

  • Incentivizing charitable giving and development.

A clear understanding and careful consideration of the impacts of these tax proposals is essential for the sake of all people, but particularly the poor."

Bishop Dewane's October 25 letter can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Tax-Reform-Principles-Letter-Congress-2017-10-25.pdf.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, U.S. House of Representatives, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, tax reform, common good, moral principles.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200