Commission for Life and Justice



Save the date! 

Our next retreat is

April 13, 2013

“Vatican II:
Why, What, Who Care?”

Fr. John Durbin



Conscience Rights Denied Catholics

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Direct link to the conscience alert: 

  Religious Liberty Supporters to Text

 Archbishop Tomasi's Address at 20th Session of the UN Human Rights Council



Leader of US Bishops Asks for Preaching on Poverty
Says Unemployment Is More Than an Issue
WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 20, 2011 ( The leader of the U.S. bishops' conference is urging his brother prelates to bring the "scandal" of poverty and unemployment to public attention.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York made this appeal in a Sept. 15 letter to all bishops.
"I hope we can use our opportunities as pastors, teachers, and leaders to focus public attention and priority on the scandal of so much poverty and so many without work in our society," he wrote.
The archbishop said his letter came in response to a request from the bishops' administrative committee, which reported that 46 million people (15%) now live in poverty in the United States.
Archbishop Dolan's letter requested the bishops to continue to "do all you can to lift up the human, moral and spiritual dimensions of the ongoing economic crisis."
Unemployment numbers "are not statistics," he reminded, "but people suffering and wounded in their human dignity."
The archbishop offered resources to the bishops to assist them in their preaching and educating the public. He also requested that they share their own statements and actions on this theme.
Without offering an extensive treatise on Catholic social doctrine, Archbishop Dolan did cite Benedict XVI to offer part of the solution.
"The best way out of poverty is to work at a living wage," he explained. "In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, 'Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual suffering' (Caritas in Veritate, No. 25)."
The New York archbishop spoke of the "political and economic behaviors" at the base of "economic failures."
But he said it is not the time for excuses or placing blame: "It is a time for everyone to accept their own personal and institutional responsibility to help create jobs and to overcome poverty, each in accord with their own abilities and opportunities. Individuals and families, faith-based and community groups, businesses and labor, government at every level, all must work together and find effective ways to promote the common good in national and economic life."
"It is an essential part of our work as Catholics to build a more just society and economy," the archbishop stated. "We feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, educate the young, welcome refugees and care for the sick and vulnerable. Our Church serves and stands in solidarity with those who are poor and jobless, helping them break the cycle of poverty and act on behalf of their own families and communities."
--- ---On the Net: Full text: economic-justice-economy/letter-to-bishops-on-economic-situation.cfm



WASHINGTON— The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor/HHS “took a first, urgently needed step toward upholding rights of conscience and religious freedom in our health care system,” by including two key provisions in its appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2013, according to the chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
            Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston welcomed the inclusion of the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA, HR 361) and the policy of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (HR 1179) in the appropriations bill, July 18, saying it will “strengthen federal protections for health care providers who decline to take part in abortions, and will ensure that the Affordable Care Act allows Americans to purchase health coverage without being forced to abandon their deeply held religious and moral convictions on matters such as abortion and sterilization.”  
            Cardinal DiNardo expressed gratitude to subcommittee chairman Representative Denny Rehberg (R-MT) for his leadership in sponsoring the conscience provisions when he introduced this bill, adding, “The Catholic community and many others concerned about religious freedom will work hard to ensure that these protections are enacted into law.”  The Labor/HHS bill must be approved by the full House Appropriations Committee, then the House of Representatives, before it can be sent to the Senate for further action.
            In a July 17 letter, Cardinal DiNardo had urged the subcommittee to include both provisions in the appropriations bill. ANDA, he wrote, would codify the Hyde/Weldon amendment, a longstanding part of this appropriations bill that prevents government discrimination against health care providers who decline participation in abortion.
            “Instances of discrimination against pro-life health care providers continue to emerge, and some states implementing the Affordable Care Act have begun to claim that they can force all private health plans on their exchanges to cover elective abortion as an ‘essential health benefit,’” Cardinal DiNardo wrote. “By closing loopholes and providing victims of discrimination with a ‘private right of action’ to defend their rights in court, Sec. 538 will provide urgently needed relief.”
            Cardinal DiNardo said the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which is sponsored by 224 House members and supported by nearly half the Senate, should be incorporated into the bill to counter “the most direct federal threat to religious freedom in recent memory” – the HHS mandate for all private health plans, even those sponsored by most religious organizations, to include sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that can cause an early abortion. He added that this provision leaves in place all existing legal protections against discriminatory withholding of health care, only allowing “an opt-out on moral or religious grounds from the new benefits mandates to be created for the first time by the Affordable Care Act itself.”



  Listening & learning from what's going on
We'd like to connect with your group
Up-to-date, accurate information on various life and justice issues
Opportunities to Learn
Specific Ministry Ideas
Key Papal Documents
What are life & justice issues?

The Commission's purpose is to promote wider involvement in life and justice ministries throughout the diocese.  We see our role in general as a motivating and encouraging group, an advocate and leaven for the work of serving life and justice.

The Commission was created in 2001 by Bishop Joseph and reports directly to him. Over the years we have sponsored workshops, speakers and retreats in various parts of the diocese with the aim of educating about the Church's rich teachings on life and justice.

Anthony Consiglio, Chair 
Rev. David J. Arseneault
Sr. Helen Marie Burns, RSM
Fr. Sean Code
Amanda Drumm
Ashley Gay
Jean Johnstone 
Mary Lynch
Deacon Tom McFee
Sr. Patti Rossi, CSJ 
Francine Swope
Susan Stith, Diocesan Liaison

Listening & learning from what's going on:

     Because many good works are already happening in the diocese, we realized that the Commission could benefit from an on-going relationship to those of you actively engaged in life and justice ministry.
     To that end we identified parishes, groups, and pastors whose works in life and justice issues are well-known and invited ourselves into a conversation with you in 2009.  Our intent was simple:

  • to build a relationship between yourselves and us so that we might serve as resources for one another
  • to perform an informal needs assessment
       ~What might you need from us?
       ~Where are the gaps in our diocesan efforts?
       ~How do we support one another?
  • to identify best practices among us and pieces of good news we can share with other parishes/diocesan organizations,
  • to initiate a yearly conversation with you.

     We clarified that pastors and groups are not accountable to the Commission.
     We reviewed closely the summary of these interviews and listened attentively to the recounting of experiences by the various members who conducted the interviews.  We tried to see clearly the common threads-the issues, the areas being touched, the challenges and questions that emerged.  It was noted that the experience of these interviewers- in person or on the phone- was that of being on holy ground.
     Your honest and insightful reflections inspired us and helped us more clearly discern ways the Commission can assist you and the entire diocese in this important and essential ministry.  As a result of our reflections on our conversations with you, we decided to hold "Discover Life & Justice Ministries" Gatherings in June 2010 as a way to showcase and celebrate the ministry happening in the diocese, to promote networking,  and educate others as to ministry opportunities they might begin in their parishes.

We'd like to connect with your group:

Our attempt to get to know those  involved in life and justice ministry was limited. If your group would like to connect with us, please contact the Commission. Our desire is to build wider our relationships in all areas of the diocese.

Up-to-date, accurate information on various life and justice issues:

   U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website 
   PA Catholic Conference (PPC) website

Opportunities to Learn:

JustFaith Groups
(Small group study; mainly issues surrounding poverty)
JustFaith Ministries provides programs that transform people and expand their commitment to social ministry. Through these life-changing opportunities, members of a church or parish can study, explore and experience Christ's call to care for the poor and vulnerable in a lively, challenging, multifaceted process in the context of a small faith community. JustFaith is partnered with Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, and Campaign for Human Development.

To talk to persons in our diocese who have taken part in a JustFaith group, contact the Commission.

Specific Ministry Ideas:

"Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities-A Campaign in Support of Life"  
A 47 page pamphlet with rationale and specific pro-life project ideas from the U.S. Bishops' Conference  - order from or borrow a copy from the Family Life Office, 814-886-5551;

"Communities of Salt & Light: Reflections on the Social Mission of the Parish"
A 27 page booklet written by U.S. Catholic Bishops; lots of practical examples of what various parishes are doing; not available online; order from
  or Family Life Office, 814-886-5551;

 Key Papal Documents:

"Gospel of Life" (Evangelium vitae)
"On Hope" (Spe salvi)
"Charity in Truth" (Caritas in veritate)
"God is Love" (Deus caritas est)

Life and Justice Issues
 ~Abuse                                           ~Health care
 ~Arms control                                  ~Human trafficking
 ~Assisted Suicide                            ~Immigration
 ~Capital punishment                         ~Labor issues
 ~Cloning                                          ~Poverty
 ~Embryonic stem cell research         ~Racism and other forms of prejudice
 ~End of life issues