USCCB Chairmen Welcome Supreme Court Decision

WASHINGTON—The Little Sisters of the Poor recently went to the Supreme Court of the United States again to defend their community against attempts to force Catholic religious to cooperate with immoral activities, and again, the Supreme Court has recognized their right to religious freedom. By a vote of 7-2, the Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, have issued a statement addressing the case:

“This is a saga that did not need to occur. Contraception is not health care, and the government should never have mandated that employers provide it in the first place. Yet even after it had, there were multiple opportunities for government officials to do the right thing and exempt conscientious objectors. Time after time, administrators and attorneys refused to respect the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the Catholic faith they exemplify, to operate in accordance with the truth about sex and the human person. Even after the federal government expanded religious exemptions to the HHS contraceptive mandate, Pennsylvania and other states chose to continue this attack on conscience.

“The Little Sisters of the Poor is an international congregation that is committed to building a culture of life. They care for the elderly poor. They uphold human dignity. They follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church. The government has no right to force a religious order to cooperate with evil. We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision. We hope it brings a close to this episode of government discrimination against people of faith. Yet, considering the efforts we have seen to force compliance with this mandate, we must continue to be vigilant for religious freedom.”

The USCCB filed amicus curiae briefs supporting these religious institutions. The briefs can be found here:

Pope backs U.N. resolution for global cease-fire

VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis praised the United Nations’ adoption of a global cease-fire resolution amid the coronavirus pandemic that has swept the world.

“The request for a global and immediate cease-fire, which would allow that peace and security necessary to provide the needed humanitarian assistance, is commendable,” the pope said July 5, after praying the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“I hope that this decision will be implemented effectively and promptly for the good of the many people who are suffering. May this Security Council resolution become a courageous first step toward a peaceful future,” he said.

The resolution, which was first proposed in late March by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, was unanimously passed July 1 by the 15-member Security Council.

According to the U.N., the council “demanded a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on its agenda” to allow for “the safe, unhindered and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance.”

In his Angelus address, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Matthew, in which Jesus thanks God for having hidden the mystery of the kingdom of heaven “from the wise and the learned” and “revealed them to little ones.”

Christ’s reference of the wise and learned, the pope explained, was said “with a veil of irony” because those who presume to be wise “have a closed heart, very often.”

“True wisdom comes also from the heart, it is not only a matter of understanding ideas: True wisdom also enters into the heart. And if you know many things but have a closed heart, you are not wise,” the pope said.

The “little ones” to whom God has revealed himself, he added, are those “who confidently open themselves to his word of salvation, who open their heart to the word of salvation, who feel the need for him and expect everything from him; the heart that is open and trustful toward the Lord.”

The pope said Jesus placed himself among those “who labor and are burdened” because he, too, is “meek and humble of heart.”

In doing so, he explained, Christ does not place himself as “a model for the resigned, nor is he simply a victim, but rather he is the man who lives this condition ‘from the heart’ in full transparency to the love of the Father, that is, to the Holy Spirit.”

“He is the model of the ‘poor in spirit’ and of all the other ‘blesseds’ of the Gospel, who do the will of God and bear witness to his kingdom,” Pope Francis said.

“The world exalts those who are rich and powerful, no matter by what means, and at times tramples upon the human being and his or her dignity,” the pope said. “And we see this every day, the poor who are trampled underfoot. It is a message for the church, called to live works of mercy and to evangelize the poor, to be meek and humble. This is how the Lord wants his church—that is, us—to be.”

By Junno Arocho Esteves  I  Catholic News Service

Vatican panel: Listen, respond to modern world

WASHINGTON, D.C.—When Vatican communication leaders met virtually with U.S. and Canadian Catholic journalists and communication leaders June 30, they urged the group to keep up their work, think of new ways to have a broader reach and not get weighed down by society’s current polarization.

“We have something to bring” to the modern world “and a huge amount to learn” from it, said Bishop Paul Tighe, secretary general of the Pontifical Council for Culture. The bishop, who has addressed this group in person at previous events, is a past secretary of the former Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

He was joined in the virtual panel by Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, and Natasa Govekar, director of the dicastery’s theological-pastoral section, which coordinates Pope Francis’ Instagram page.

The Vatican officials had a simple message, urging the group above all to really engage with readers, viewers and social media followers.

Ruffini stressed that communication is about relationships, which the other panelists also echoed. Govekar emphasized that a key part of communication is not just getting the word out but listening.

The panel addressed the opening session of the Catholic Media Conference via a Zoom call, replacing the session that would have kicked off the gathering this year in Portland, Oregon, which was canceled due to the coronavirus. Some workshops and other parts of the annual conference were available to participants in an online format.

The group of journalists and communication leaders asked some poignant questions in the chat section that were conveyed to the panelists such as: How would they advise diocesan leaders during a time of budget cuts related to COVID-19 not to do away with Catholic media, and what words of encouragement could they offer to this group during a time of increased polarization?

In response to the question about keeping diocesan communications going, Tighe said: “No diocese should not be active in communication.”

“If we have faith, we will find the resources,” he added.

Answering the polarization question, panelists advised the group to pray, spread love, not hate, and be sure to keep a sense of humor.

Ruffini said communicators need to learn how to dialogue and listen to those inside and outside the church without looking at others as the enemy. He stressed that the job of communicators is to unify, saying: “That is what we have to do.”

To do this well is not without risk, warned Tighe, who urged the group not to be frightened by modern culture but to get out there and engage with it. “Listen and respond,” he said almost in pep-talk fashion.

And when it comes to the ever-pervasive social media, the bishop advised the communicators to participate, but not to let it become who they are, always keeping the priority of sharing the good news as a barometer in their role as Catholic communicators.

These same themes came across in a message to the group from Pope Francis, read by J.D. Long-Garcia, senior editor of America magazine and CPA president, at the start of the conference’s opening session.

“Catholic media outlets in the United States are called to break down barriers that prevent dialogue and honest communication between people and communities,” the pope said. He also urged the group to serve as an inspiration of the ideal of unity amid diversity “in an age marked by conflicts and polarization from which the Catholic community itself is not immune.”

“We cannot truly communicate unless we become personally involved, unless we can personally attest to the truth of the message we convey,” the pope told them.

Carol Zimmermann  I  Catholic News Service


Interactive summer reading list

BRIDGEPORT— Looking for a book to take to the beach or enjoy during some downtime? This summer, The Leadership Institute has come out with a fun way to interact with its summer reading list.

First, visit and read through the whole list. Then, using the thumbs up or down, choose where you would place a particular entry (one is at the top or your list, ten is at the end of your list).

Click “View Reader’s Choice” to see how many people agree with you. Then get reading!

The list offers a ride-range of reading for a variety of ages and interests.

Choices include A Man for all Seasons, An Introduction to the Devout Life, Forming Intentional Disciples, In Defense of Sanity, Memorize the Mass, Mere Christianity, Socrates Meets Jesus, Story of A Soul, White Rage, and Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

(Visit for the full list and make your selection!)

U.S. Bishops’ Chairmen Grateful for SCOTUS Decision

WASHINGTON – Today, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which challenged a decision by the Montana Supreme Court to invalidate a tax credit scholarship program because families benefiting include those who choose to send their children to religiously-affiliated schools, a violation of the Montana state constitution’s “Blaine Amendment” of 1889 against aid to religious schools. By vote of 5-4, the Court ruled in favor of the petitioners.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J. of Oakland, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education, have issued a statement:

“The Court has rightly ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not permit states to discriminate against religion. This decision means that religious persons and organizations can, like everyone else, participate in government programs that are open to all. This is good news, not only for people of faith, but for our country. A strong civil society needs the full participation of religious institutions. By ensuring the rights of faith-based organizations’ freedom to serve, the Court is also promoting the common good.

“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. They were never meant to ensure government neutrality towards religion, but were expressions of hostility toward the Catholic Church. We are grateful that the Supreme Court has taken an important step that will help bring an end to this shameful legacy.”

The USCCB filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the petitioners, which can be found here:


Permanent Diaconate Survey Highlights Work

WASHINGTON-The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations has shared the results of the annual survey on the permanent diaconate. A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate: A Study for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 2019-2020, was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) and provides an illustration of the state of the permanent diaconate in the United States, including the number of those ordained and retired in the past year, percentages of those involved in various Church ministries, and other demographic information.

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations expressed his gratitude for the ministry of permanent deacons in the Church. “Permanent deacons provide an invaluable service to the universal Church. Through their leadership in parish and pastoral ministry, proclamation and preaching of the Gospel, and involvement in corporal and spiritual works of mercy, deacons imitate Christ the Servant by bringing the presence of Jesus to those who are often the most vulnerable in our society.”

With contact information provided by the National Association of Diaconate Directors and CARA’s Catholic Ministry Formation database, CARA contacted the 187 dioceses and eparchies in the United States with an active Office of the Permanent Diaconate. Of this total, 129 responded to the survey for an overall response rate of 69%. Of that total, 71% of responses were from Latin Catholic dioceses and 36% were from Eastern Catholic eparchies. Some of the major findings of the report based on the responding dioceses and eparchies are:

  • The dioceses with the largest number of permanent deacons: Chicago (764), Galveston-Houston (478), and New York (355). Adjusting for Catholic population size, Latin Rite dioceses with the lowest ratio of Catholic per permanent deacon include: Lexington (481 Catholics to every deacon), Bismarck (690 Catholics per deacon), Rapid City (704 Catholics per deacon), Duluth (708 Catholics per deacon), and Jefferson City (733 Catholics per deacon).
  • The 123 Latin Rite dioceses that responded to the survey report a total of 13,810 permanent deacons, both active and non-active. The four eparchies that responded reported a total of 57 permanent deacons. Extrapolating to include the dioceses and eparchies that did not respond to the survey, it can be estimated that there are as many as 19,833 permanent deacons in the United States today.
  • Latin Rite dioceses report having 9,935 permanent deacons active in ministry. The four eparchies report 50 active permanent deacons. Extrapolating to include dioceses and eparchies that did not respond to the survey, it can be estimated that there are 14,287 deacons active in ministry in the United States today, or about 72% of all permanent deacons.
  • During the 2019 calendar year, 383 new permanent deacons were ordained. At the same time, 334 deacons retired from active ministry and another 289 deacons died. As is the case with priests in the United States, there are not enough new permanent deacons being ordained to make up for the numbers who are retiring from active ministry or dying each year.
  • Ninety-five percent of active permanent deacons are at least 50 years old. About a fifth (20%) are in their 50s, four in ten (41%) are in their 60s, and two-fifths (41%) are 70 or older.
  • Three-quarters of active deacons (76%) are non-Hispanic whites. Seventeen percent are Hispanic or Latino. Three percent are African American and 4% are Asian or Pacific Islander.
  • Among permanent deacons who are financially compensated for ministry:

    • 26% are serving in a “parish ministerial position” other than in pastoral care of a parish (Canon 517.2), such as religious education or youth ministry.
    • One in eight are entrusted with the pastoral care of one or more parishes (Canon 3 517§2) (13%) or work in parish non-ministerial positions such as administration, business, or finance (12%).
    • One in nine works in prison ministry (11%), in a diocesan non-ministerial position (e.g., administration, business, finance) (11%), and in diocesan ministerial position (e.g., religious education, youth ministry) (9%).
    • Fewer work in hospital ministry (8%), parochial education (e.g., school teacher, educational administration) (7%), and works in ministry in a social services agency (e.g., Catholic Charities) (4%).

The entire CARA report can be accessed at:

Published originally

Discussion on film 13th

WHAT: Sacred Heart University’s College of Arts & Sciences, department of Catholic studies and Center for Catholic Studies present “Heart Challenges Hate – A Discussion Series: Wrestling with the Legacy of America’s ‘Original Sin.’” For this discussion, viewers are asked to watch the documentary “13th.” Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, watch her full-scale exploration of the history of racial inequality and mass incarceration in the United States, and how African-Americans went “from slave to criminal in one amendment.” Stream the full-length feature free on YouTube and tune in for the discussion on Wednesday, July 1.



  • Michelle Loris­­—Associate dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, chair of the Catholic studies department

Featured panelists:

  • Bill Harris, Director of SHU Community Theatre
  • Julie Lawrence, Executive director for Diversity and Inclusion
  • Sally Ross, Associate professor, School of Communication, Media & the Arts
  • William Yousman, Associate professor, School of Communication, Media & the Arts        

WHERE:  Free and open to the public. Join the discussion on YouTube. 

WHEN: Wednesday, July 1, at 7 p.m.

SPONSOR: Sacred Heart University’s College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Catholic Studies, Center for Catholic Studies

PRESS: Media coverage is welcomed. Please contact Deb Noack at 203-396-8483 or for further information.

About Sacred Heart University

As the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, and one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., Sacred Heart University is a national leader in shaping higher education for the 21st century. SHU offers more than 80 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its Fairfield, Conn., campus. Sacred Heart also has satellites in Connecticut, Luxembourg and Ireland and offers online programs. More than 9,000 students attend the University’s nine colleges and schools: Arts & Sciences; Communication, Media & the Arts; Social Work; Computer Science & Engineering; Health Professions; the Isabelle Farrington College of Education; the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology; the Dr. Susan L. Davis & Richard J. Henley College of Nursing; and St. Vincent’s College. Sacred Heart stands out from other Catholic institutions as it was established and led by laity. The contemporary Catholic university is rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts, and at the same time cultivates students to be forward thinkers who enact change—in their own lives, professions and in their communities. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its Best 385 Colleges–2020 Edition, “Best in the Northeast” and Best 252 Business Schools–2019 Edition. Sacred Heart is home to the award-winning, NPR-affiliated radio station, WSHU, a Division I athletics program and an impressive performing arts program that includes choir, band, dance and theater.