Friday, June 28, 2013

1. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' 110-page ruling on its health care mandate requires time for analysis, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops. Cardinal Dolan also expressed gratitude for the five-month extension on implementing the complex proposal.

2. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, commended the U.S. Senate for passage of comprehensive immigration reformlegislation. The U.S. Senate passed S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Competitiveness, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, by a vote of 68-32.

3. Pope Francis tweeted today something that speaks to the heart of many Christians, saying, "Jesus didn’t save us with an idea. He humbled himself and became a man. The Word became Flesh."

4. Around the country this weekend, many dioceses will be participating in the Peter's Pence Collection, which gives people the opportunity to be a pilgrim of charity around the world. Catholics gifts to this annual collection help Pope Francis strengthen dioceses, religious orders, and struggling communities of faith.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Five Things To Remember On June 27

1. Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco responds to the Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage in this video.

2. Catholic News Service reported via Twitter today that, "Tomorrow Vatican's news aggregator will automatically be available in flip-book format for iPad users."

3. The USCCB subcommittee on the Church in Central and Eastern Europe awarded $4.9 million in grants to195 projects, on June 9, during the Subcommittee meeting in San Diego. The Collection supports pastoral, educational and construction projects in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The projects support youth ministry, seminary formation, Catholic education and intellectual life in 28 countries.

4. In an op-ed for the St. Louis Dispatch, Archbishop Robert Carlson wrote that the HHS mandate has put our religious liberties at stake. Read more at

5. God loves you.

Church Reaching Them All

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

You never know what you’ll find at the other end of a phone call. Take yesterday.

A man called saying he was from a daily newspaper and asked in expletive strewn language how I would answer to God for the Church’s position that marriage is between a man and a woman. The expletives suggested he didn’t seek civil conversation. After his diatribe ended, he called back and said to an associate, “we were cut off.” Cut off and ticked off would be more apt.

A few hours later another stranger, a mother upset with her daughter’s lesbian lifestyle, called. She said her daughter is bright, thoughtful, generous and kind, but also is in a same-sex relationship that Mom doesn’t approve of or understand. “I’ve lost a child,” she said. We spoke of the bishops’ document Always Our Children, which describes the relationship between parents and gay children. I opined that the parent-child relationship is more important than any Supreme Court decision. She thanked me for listening, and I said she made more sense than other calls I’d had earlier. Plus, she didn’t swear at me. We both laughed.

The calls indicate how volatile the same-sex marriage issue is and how deep goes the pain as families work to cope with it. They also exemplify the Church’s challenge in dealing with policy and pastoral issues simultaneously.

Policy-wise, the Church looks to marriage as an institution that holds society together and provides the ideal situation in which to raise children. It holds that the married love between a man and wife is sacred, like the love God has for the Church. It is unique. Admittedly, we do not always reach the ideal. Some parents flub the job. A child can thrive more in a single parent household than in a marriage where violence and tension push love out. But just because we can fall far from the ideal situation, doesn’t make the ideal flawed.

Pastorally, the Church is there to support people, especially in trying times. A pastor can help a father to see that a son who is driving him mad might actually be a lot like himself, for example. The Church also teaches the importance and power of love and the sacredness of the bond between parent and child. It reminds parents and children that they need to be there for one another in easy and difficult times. The Church reminds all people of the need for wholesome, sustaining friendships. It urges all of us to have patience with one another. It also offers many examples of people who are both celibate and happy. It teaches we should treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of their lifestyle. Bottom line: We’re all treasured children of God.

So, like it or not, the fact is that my obscenity-spewing caller is a brother in pain, just as the sweet mother struggling with her daughter’s lifestyle is a hurting sister. So too are the legislators and judges who weigh the issues that can form the culture and affect our lives. The Church needs to minister to them all.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Five Things To Remember On June 26

1. The U.S. Supreme Court decisions June 26 striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and refusing to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 mark a “tragic day for marriage and our nation,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

You can read a backgrounder on the USCCB's stances on these cases.

2. Pope Francis spoke of the joy of fatherhood today, saying, "All of us, to exist, to become complete, in order to be mature, we need to feel the joy of fatherhood: even those of us who are celibate. Fatherhood is giving life to others, giving life, giving life… For us, it is pastoral paternity, spiritual fatherhood, but this is still giving life, this is still becoming fathers. "

3. A discussion of workers' wages is a good starting point for fixing the U.S.economy, said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development in testimony, June 25, before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The committee's hearing was dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which codified the national minimum wage for the first time.

4. Bishop Richard Pates has asked defense secretary Chuck Hagel to review conditions at Guantanamo Bay and close the facility.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Five Things To Remember On June 25

1. Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, CA, is speaking to a Senate committee today about the minimum wage and how is should be increased and indexed. You can watch the live stream at

2. The Knights of Columbus organized a vigil for the Fortnight for Freedom and you can watch the video of the event:

3.  Bishop Richard Pates wrote Defense Secretary Churck Hagel about Guantanamo Bay, asking him to "make good on the President's commitment to close this facility that has become a symbol of indefinite detention without trial."

4. Being a Christian is not a mistake, Pope Francis said, adding "Being a Christian is a call of love, friendship, a call to become a child of God, brother of Jesus, to become fruitful in the transmission of this call to others, to become instruments of this call."

5. God loves you.

World Youth Day: Twenty Years Ago

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

Twenty years ago this August Denver hosted World Youth Day, the first time the world event took place in the U.S. As WYD director of communications, I was on a core team from Washington with Father Dennis Schnurr, WYD executive director and now archbishop of Cincinnati, and Paul Henderson, WYD director of programming and now director of planning and communication operations at the USCCB. We’ve remained friends, with the kind of friendship borne of going to war together.

When I speak about WYD, I compare it to an elephant, one you gently prod to move where you’d like it to go, but knowing at any moment it could overpower you. If we knew how big WYD would become, we would have been afraid. With blissful ignorance, we set off for a fun adventure.

Though founded in Rome in 1985, WYD hadn’t quite caught on. The Vatican thought that holding the event in the USA would establish it. They counted on the immense media presence and U.S. ingenuity and organization. Their confidence was well placed.

As a reporter in Rome, I had traveled with Pope John Paul II. But sitting on a plane with him was a far cry from organizing media for an event to draw about 2,000 journalists and setting up a structure for TV and radio coverage. Early on, I took my concerns to Tim Russert, enthusiastic Catholic and host of NBC’s Meet the Press. With an analysis reflective of a man used to working within walls of power, he explained how to work with the media. “You own the pope, so you’re in charge,” he said.

Now if you want to be empowered, convince yourself you own the pope. When TV producers would balk at our plans, I would remain calm because, as Russert had assured me, I owned the pope. Russert also offered the help of veteran NBC special events producer Bob Asman, who had just organized the TV pool coverage of the Democratic National Convention in New York City. “We’ll call him the ‘secret missionary for God,’” Russert laughed. Asman so impressed the TV stations in Denver that had formed a consortium to deal with the largest event they’d ever known, that they hired him almost as soon as they met him.

When Catholic youth heard about WYD, they responded in force and surprised the bishops. Youth begged to go to the church event instead of church leaders begging them to go. Bishops who traveled with them found it life changing. It was a booster shot for the shepherds to be surrounded by energetic sheep. Their enthusiasm caught reporters up short. Media geared up for protests, but they never materialized. When one reporter asked a girl about her feelings on birth control and abortion, she told him teen-style, “Get a life!” The days were for prayer, not protest. The Washington Post reported the event was like Woodstock, with all of the good and none of the bad of the 1969 rock concert at a farm in the Catskills.

When I returned home, I had WYD on my mind. I must have overdone it because a friend told me one evening as we went down to Washington’s Union Station that all I talked about was World Youth Day. “I’m sure it was wonderful for you,” she said, “but let it go.” When we got to the station, a teenager bounded toward me across the Main Hall. “Hey, Sister Mary Ann,” he shouted. “Remember me? We met at World Youth Day. It was great.” My friend laughed, “Case closed,” she said, “I guess it was an event to last a lifetime.”

Monday, June 24, 2013

Five Things To Remember On June 24

1. Archbishop William E. Lori kicked off the second Fortnight for Freedom Friday with a Mass attended by hundreds in BaltimoreNation-wide events are underway. The Knights of Columbus hosted a candlelight vigil in Washington near the Capitol Saturday. Follow #Fortnight4Freedom on Facebook and Twitter.

2. Citing our common heritage, Pope Francis told a crowd today that a Christian can't be anti-Semitic.

3. Several U.S. archbishops will receive a pallium from Pope Francis later this week. Here is a primer to learn what it means for leaders of dioceses in San Francisco, Iowa, Portland and Indianapolis. 

4. World Youth Day in Rio is about a month away from starting and you can watch this video of the official anthem. Follow @WYDUSA at Twitter.

5. God loves you.

Pallium Primer 2013: Francis' First Class

It's time to revisit what's become a tradition of this blog, a profile of the U.S. bishops headed to Rome this June 29 for the annual Pallium Mass. As many of you know, the pallium is a wool band worn over the vestments of an archbishop at Mass. Every year on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the pope presents a pallium to each of the bishops. We delved into the significance and symbolism of the pallium in our first blog post on this subject, two years ago.

As was the case then and last year, it's worth noting that, even when a bishop is already an archbishop, he receives the pallium again when he moved to a new metropolitan see (i.e. archdiocese). In the United States, this has occurred in the last five years with Cardinal Timothy Dolan (Milwaukee to New York), Archbishop José Gomez (San Antonio to Los Angeles) and Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap. (Denver to Philadelphia).

As has also been the case the past two years, this year's class has four members, alphabetically:

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone
Archbishop of San Francisco

Age 57
Ordained a priest July 9, 1982
Ordained a bishop August 21, 2002
Auxiliary bishop of San Diego, 2002-2009
Bishop of Oakland, 2009-2012

Archbishop Cordileone is currently chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. San Francisco has currently four living archbishops, a distinction held by the Archdiocese of New Orleans from 2009-2011. Archbishop Cordileone's three living predecessors are Archbishop John R. Quinn (archbishop of San Francisco from 1977-1995), Cardinal William Levada (1995-2005, and prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, 2005-2012) and Archbishop George Niederauer (2005-2012).

Archbishop Michael Jackels
Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa

Age 59
Ordained a priest May 30, 1981
Ordained a bishop April 4, 2005
Bishop of Wichita, Kansas 2005-2013

Archbishop Jackels succeeded Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB, who retired early for reasons of health, on April 8.

Archbishop Alexander Sample
Archbishop of Portland, Oregon

Age 52
Ordained a priest June 1, 1990
Ordained a bishop January 25, 2006
Bishop of Marquette, Michigan 2006-2013

Archbishop Sample was the youngest bishop in the country at the time of his 2006 appointment to Marquette. He was also an early adopter of Twitter among the U.S. bishops.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin, CSSR
Archbishop of Indianapolis

Age 61
Ordained a priest June 1, 1978
Ordained a bishop October 9, 2010
Secretary of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 2010-2012

Archbishop Tobin joined the Redemptorist order in 1973 and served as its superior general from 1997-2009. He then served as the second-in-command in the Vatican's congregation overseeing religious life until his 2012 appointment to Indianapolis.

(Photo of Archbishop Tobin a CNS photo by Sean Gallagher of The Criterion, Indianapolis)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Five Things To Remember On June 17

1. The Fortnight for Freedom begins this Friday and there are big events happening across the country. The two-week event hopes to address many current challenges to religious liberty, including the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate, Supreme Court rulings that could attempt to redefine marriage in June, and religious liberty concerns in areas such as immigration and humanitarian services. #Fortnight4Freedom is being used on Facebook and Twitter

2. If you haven't yet, check out Faith and Safety, a partnership of the USCCB and the Orthodox Churches. It's a website designed to help parents keep their children safe while online.

3. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the domestic anti-poverty program of the USCCB, has approved grants totaling over $9 million to empower poor and low-income persons to overcome poverty and injustice. The bishops of CCHD subcommittee approved the grants during their meeting in San Diego on June 9.

4. Over the weekend, Pope Francis said: "Whenever we want to assert ourselves, when we become wrapped up in our own selfishness and put ourselves in the place of God, we end up spawning death."

5. God loves you.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Five Things To Remember On June 14

1. The Communications Department of the USCCB and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America have launched, a resource for adults to help childrensafely navigate online. The website and complementary social media channels ( and address safe use of the Internet, mobile devices and other technology, emphasizing the positive use of technology to support children's faith. June is Internet Safety Month. You can read Bishop John C. Wester's blog post welcoming people to the site. 

The initiative was funded by the Catholic Communication Campaign, which receives donations from U.S. Catholics.

2. Have you seen our Father's Day blogs this week? Robert Sargent Shriver is remembered by his son, Mark K. Shriver. The USCCB's Sheila Garcia, Associate Director for the USCCB's Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, pays tribute to her own father, who loved unconditionally. Matt Palmer, our social media strategist, blogs about the lessons he's learned from his seven-month-old daughter.

3. The National Catholic Register recently wrote about the Fortnight for Freedom, which starts June 21. The article highlights how dioceses are working on a local level to promote freedom concerns amongst Catholics.

4. Our YouTube channel is posting daily reflections on the daily readings. People are getting great insights from clergy, religious and USCCB staffers.

5. God loves you.

Making a mess of things: Lessons learned for Father's Day

The following is a blog by Matt Palmer, social media strategist for the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops.

“Just don’t mess up.”

As Anna Leigh Palmer came into this world seven months ago, those were the words that came to mind. Soon, I was holding her and weeping like a, well, baby.

Becoming a father is a transformative experience, the kind that has me waking up in the middle of the night to stand over a crib to watch a sleeping human being breathe. The term “helicopter parent” is doubly applicable since, a) I make helicopter noises with my mouth to make her laugh and b) I can’t take my eyes off of her for a second.
What’s incredible about babies is that they are sponges, soaking up everything that happens around them.
Working in the Church, I’ve heard the phrase “parents are the primary educators of their children” often. That’s intimidating.

It certainly leaves me wondering what knowledge I have to impart on a child.

Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in the 2011 “YOUCAT” a challenge to young Gen X’ers and Millennials: “You need to know what you believe. You need to know your faith with that same precision with which an IT specialist knows the inner workings of a computer. You need to understand it like a good musician knows the piece he is playing. Yes, you need to be more deeply rooted in the faith than the generation of your parents so that you can engage the challenges and temptations of this time with strength and determination.”

I wasn’t even married when I read that, but the message sticks with me now more than ever. In raising our children in the faith, we’ve made the decision to know and understand it as well. God, and by extension the Church, is calling me to be a better father and a better Catholic each day. The future of the Church, in many ways, hinges on young Catholic parents like us.

Sunday will be my first official Father’s Day. There will be Mass in the morning and cookouts in the afternoon with family. It’ll be rewarding for sure and I might be expecting a tie or two.

The reality, though, is each day is Father’s Day. Watching Anna Leigh giggle, attempt to crawl or say “Mama” and “Dada” are the greatest gifts I will receive next to marrying my wife. Anna Leigh loves unconditionally.

There is nothing that brings more peace to my life than when she falls asleep in my arms. Her heartbeat brings a sense of calmness to my life. She’ll smile in her sleep and I wonder what she’s dreaming about when she knows so little about the world around her.

While I’m concerned about teaching Anna Leigh to survive and succeed mentally and spiritually, she’s busy showing me how wondrous the world is by simply existing.

I don’t think, “Just don’t mess up,” any longer. Instead, I seek to love like Anna Leigh and God do - unconditionally.