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Holiness means being loving, not boring, pope says

God calls all Christians to be saints — not plastic statues of saints, but real people who make time for prayer and who show loving care for others in the simplest gestures, Pope Francis said in his new document on holiness.

"Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality, or joy," the pope wrote in "Gaudete et Exsultate" ("Rejoice and Be Glad"), his apostolic exhortation on "the call to holiness in today's world."

ExhortationPope Francis signed the exhortation March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, and the Vatican released it April 9.

Much of the document was written in the second person, speaking directly to the individual reading it. "With this exhortation I would like to insist primarily on the call to holiness that the Lord addresses to each of us, the call that he also addresses, personally, to you," he wrote near the beginning.

Saying he was not writing a theological treatise on holiness, Pope Francis focused mainly on how the call to holiness is a personal call, something God asks of each Christian and which requires a personal response given one's state in life, talents and circumstances.

"We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer," he wrote. But "that is not the case."

"We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves," he said.

He wrote about "the saints next door" and said he likes "to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God's people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile."

Pope Francis also noted the challenges to holiness, writing at length and explicitly about the devil just two weeks after an uproar caused by an elderly Italian journalist who claimed the pope told him he did not believe in the existence of hell.

"We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech, or an idea," the pope wrote in his exhortation. "This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless, and end up more vulnerable" to the devil's temptations.

"The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy, and vice," he wrote. "When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families, and our communities."

The path to holiness, he wrote, is almost always gradual, made up of small steps in prayer, in sacrifice, and in service to others.

Being part of a parish community and receiving the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and reconciliation, are essential supports for living a holy life, the pope wrote. And so is finding time for silent prayer. "I do not believe in holiness without prayer," he said, "even though that prayer need not be lengthy or involve intense emotion."

"The holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures," he said, before citing the example of a woman who refuses to gossip with a neighbor, returns home and listens patiently to her child even though she is tired, prays the rosary, and later meets a poor person and offers him a kind word.

The title of the document was taken from Matthew 5:12 when Jesus says "rejoice and be glad" to those who are persecuted or humiliated for his sake.

The line concludes the Beatitudes, in which, Pope Francis said, "Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy": living simply, putting God first, trusting him and not earthly wealth or power, being humble, mourning with and consoling others, being merciful and forgiving, working for justice, and seeking peace with all.

The example of the saints officially recognized by the church can be helpful, he said, but no one else's path can be duplicated exactly.

Each person, he said, needs "to embrace that unique plan that God willed for each of us from eternity."

The exhortation ends with a section on "discernment," which is a gift to be requested of the Holy Spirit and developed through prayer, reflection, reading Scripture, and seeking counsel from a trusted spiritual guide.

"A sincere daily 'examination of conscience'" will help, he said, because holiness involves striving each day for "all that is great, better, and more beautiful, while at the same time being concerned for the little things, for each day's responsibilities and commitments."

Pope Francis also included a list of cautions. For example, he said holiness involves finding balance in prayer time, time spent enjoying others' company, and time dedicated to serving others in ways large or small. And, "needless to say, anything done out of anxiety, pride, or the need to impress others will not lead to holiness."

Being holy is not easy, he said, but if the attempt makes a person judgmental, always frustrated, and surly, something is not right.

"The saints are not odd and aloof, unbearable because of their vanity, negativity, and bitterness," he said. "The apostles of Christ were not like that."

In fact, the pope said, "Christian joy is usually accompanied by a sense of humor."

The exhortation included many of Pope Francis' familiar refrains about attitudes that destroy the Christian community, like gossip, or that proclaim themselves to be Christian, but are really forms of pride, like knowing all the rules and being quick to judge others for not following them.

Holiness "is not about swooning in mystic rapture," he wrote, but it is about recognizing and serving the Lord in the hungry, the stranger, the naked, the poor, and the sick.

Holiness is holistic, he said, and while each person has a special mission, no one should claim that their particular call or path is the only worthy one.

"Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm, and passionate for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred," the pope wrote. "Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned, and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia ...."

And, he said, one cannot claim that defending the life of a migrant is a "secondary issue" when compared to abortion or other bioethical questions.

"That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian," he said.

Pope Francis' exhortation also included warnings about a clear lack of holiness demonstrated by some Catholics on Twitter or other social media, especially when commenting anonymously.

"It is striking at times," he said, that "in claiming to uphold the other commandments, they completely ignore the eighth, which forbids bearing false witness or lying."

Saints, on the other hand, "do not waste energy complaining about the failings of others; they can hold their tongue before the faults of their brothers and sisters, and avoid the verbal violence that demeans and mistreats others."

— By Cindy Wooden / Catholic News Service

Divine Mercy celebrations in the diocese

The Feast of Divine Mercy is Sunday, April 8. The schedule for the Diocese of Duluth for 2018 is:

  • Aitken, St. James Church, 299 Red Oak Drive, (218) 927-6581: 1:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.; confession 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., holy hour 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.; Divine Mercy Chaplet; Mass 3:15 p.m.; spaghetti dinner after Mass.

  • Cloquet, Queen of Peace Church, 102 Fourth St., (218) 879- 6793: 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Divine Mercy Chaplet, prayers, no confessions.

  • Coleraine, Mary Immaculate Church, 10 Corey St., (218) 885-1126: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; adoration, rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, readings, homilies, confession, Benediction, reception in social hall.

  • Duluth, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, 2801 E. Fourth St., (218) 728-3646: 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.; 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. exposition, confession; 3 p.m. Divine Mercy Chaplet, Benediction.

  • Ely, St. Anthony Church, 231 E. Camp St., (218) 365-4017: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.; adoration, confession, meditations of Divine Mercy, Stations of the Cross, veneration of St. Faustina relic, prayers, Divine Mercy Chaplet.

— The Northern Cross

An Easter message from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB

Bishop Paul Sirba: Let the Lord’s Resurrection fill our hearts with grace and mercy

No one can stop the Resurrection of Jesus. No one. The power and grace of the dying and rising of Jesus Christ is explosive!

Christians gather at the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem every year to share the Easter greeting and the light of the new Easter fire. The holy frenzy that accompanies the announcement or Exultet is mirrored in the churches and cathedrals around the world. The holy shroud of Turin, the burial cloth of Jesus, was seared with a blast of energy that left an imprint which cannot be explained but reveals the unharnessed power of the risen Lord and His beautiful image.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has risen from the tomb! No one could or can stop Jesus’ victory over sin, suffering, and death. Alleluia! His love for us is eternal. In this month of April we begin the great 50 days of the Easter Season. The Lord’s Resurrection should fill our hearts and lives with His grace and mercy.

As our faith teaches, “We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day. Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity” (CCC 989).

Brothers and sisters, let us live in the light of the Resurrection of Jesus! Like the first disciples, who doubted the announcement of the Good News initially, we can get stuck in the doubt. We are tempted to believe the doubt. We are impatient that the Lord doesn’t answer our prayers or permits us to share in His creative suffering. There is pressure, subtle pride, which remains in us, that the Lord during this Easter Season wants to heal. Receive the healing power of the risen Lord.

In concert with Holy Mother Church, I encourage the reading of the Acts of the Apostles during the great 50 days. The second volume of St. Luke’s two-volume work describes how salvation history promised in the Old Testament is accomplished by Jesus in the New. St. Luke’s account of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the foundation of the Christian community and the commissioning of its first preachers is being lived anew in the Diocese of Duluth through you and me.

Our Easter joy should reflect the love of Jesus. It should teach us to receive the freedom of God’s merciful love for us personally. It should motivate us to be more merciful to others.

“Therefore, O Lord, we pray you that this candle, hallowed to the honor of your name, may preserve undimmed, to overcome the darkness of this night. Receive it as a pleasing fragrance, and let it mingle with the lights of heaven. May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen” (Exultet).

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.

Diocese of Winona renamed with addition of Rochester co-cathedral

 

The Congregation for Bishops has decreed that the Diocese of Winona will now be called the Diocese of Winona-Rochester and that St. John the Evangelist Church of Rochester will be designated as a co-cathedral, according to a March 27 announcement from the newly renamed diocese.

“This is a significant moment in our diocese’s history,” said Bishop John M. Quinn of the Vatican’s announcement. “My heart is lifted by this news, as I know that the presence of a co-cathedral in Rochester will provide unique ways to share the Gospel in our diocese’s fastest growing city.”

The word “cathedral” is derived from the Latin word cathedra, meaning “chair.” The chair is an ancient symbol of apostolic authority. The cathedral is generally located in the major metropolis of a diocese. At the time the Diocese of Winona was established, Winona was a key location, by the railroad and along the Mississippi River. Now, 128 years later, populations have shifted. Rochester has become the third largest city in Minnesota, and three-quarters of the diocese’s population resides in the region between Rochester and Mankato.

In 2015, an initial inquiry was sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops asking for the designation of a co-cathedral in Rochester. The Congregation for Bishops subsequently sent the diocese requirements for the process and directed the establishment of a diocesan planning committee.

This committee determined that St. John the Evangelist Church should be elevated to the status of a co-cathedral. The co-cathedral committee, and other groups involved, considered the size of the church building, location, architecture, and overall ability to function as a co-cathedral. Other factors included its proximity to the Mayo Clinic, the arts, culture, media, and industry, which provide an opportunity for further evangelization. St. John the Evangelist Church is also considered the “mother church” of Rochester, being the oldest parish in the city.

The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Winona will not change in status. It will continue to be the seat of the diocese and will host diocesan celebrations and Masses and ordinations.

A liturgical ceremony is scheduled for June 24, at which the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Pope Francis’ delegate to the United States, will formally designate St. John the Evangelist Church as the co-cathedral. During this ceremony, a new cathedra, or bishop’s chair, will be blessed, bearing witness to the apostolic ministry of sanctifying, teaching, and shepherding.

Adoption of the new title, “Diocese of Winona-Rochester,” throughout the parishes, schools, and diocesan institutions is expected to be completed by July 1.

— The Northern Cross

Church leaders praise Hawking for contribution to science, dialogue

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who said he did not believe in God, was still an esteemed member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and fostered a fruitful dialogue between science and faith.

The academy, which Pope Pius IX established in 1847, tweeted, “We are deeply saddened about the passing of our remarkable Academician Stephen #Hawking who was so faithful to our Academy.”

Stephen Hawking and Pope Francis
Pope Francis greets Stephen Hawking during an audience with participants attending a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican Nov. 28, 2016. Hawking, the British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popular author died March 14 at the age of 76. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

“He told the 4 Popes he met that he wanted to advance the relationship between Faith and Scientific Reason. We pray the Lord to welcome him in his Glory,” @CasinaPioIV, the academy, tweeted March 14.

The Vatican observatory, @SpecolaVaticana, also expressed its condolences to Hawking’s family.

“We value the enormous scientific contribution he has made to quantum cosmology and the courage he had in facing illness,” the observatory tweeted in Italian.

The British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popular author died March 14 at the age of 76.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster tweeted, “We thank Stephen Hawking for his outstanding contribution to science. As a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, he will be missed and mourned there, too.”

Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury tweeted, “Professor Stephen Hawking’s contribution to science was as limitless as the universe he devoted his life to understanding. His was a life lived with bravery and passion. As we pray for all those who mourn him, may he rest in peace.”

St. John Paul II named Hawking a member of the papal academy in 1986. The academy’s members are chosen on the basis of their academic credentials and professional expertise — not religious beliefs.

Blessed Paul VI, the first of four popes to meet Hawking, gave the then 33-year-old scientist the prestigious Pius XI gold medal in 1975 after a unanimous vote by the academy in recognition of his great work, exceptional promise, and “important contribution of his research to scientific progress.”

Pictures from the academy’s archives show the pope kneeling before Hawking, who was seated in a motorized wheelchair, to present him with the medal and touch his head.

Hawking had most recently met Pope Francis when he delivered his presentation on “The Origin of the Universe” at the academy’s plenary session on science and sustainability in 2016.

In interviews and his writings, Hawking asserted that God had no role in creating the universe.

Yet his avowed atheism did not keep him from engaging in dialogue and debate with the church as his work and contribution to the papal academy showed.

He also debated on CNN’s “Larry King Live” in 2010 with Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer — a philosopher and educator — over the scientific underpinnings of the beginning of the universe and the theological arguments for the existence of God.

Vatican astronomer, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, who has studied both physics and philosophy, told Catholic News Service in 2010 that “the ‘god’ that Stephen Hawking doesn’t believe in is one I don’t believe in either.”

“God is not just another force in the universe, alongside gravity or electricity,” he added. “God is the reason why existence itself exists. God is the reason why space and time and the laws of nature can be present for the forces to operate that Stephen Hawking is talking about.”

— By Carol Glatz / Catholic News Service

Bishops urge federal protections for supporters of traditional marriage

 

The chairmen of two U.S. bishops’ committees March 14 called the First Amendment Defense Act “a modest and important measure” because it protects those who believe marriage is “the union of one man and one woman.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, recently reintroduced the measure in the Senate.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “has been vocal in support of the legislation since its inception,” said a joint statement by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

In welcoming its reintroduction, they said the First Amendment Defense Act “is a modest and important measure that protects the rights of faith-based organizations and people of all faiths and of no faith who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

People who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman, they said, “are increasingly having their religious freedoms jeopardized and even forfeited.”

“In a pluralistic society,” they continued, “faith-based charitable agencies and schools should not be excluded from participation in public life by loss of licenses, accreditation or tax-exempt status because they hold reasonable views on marriage that differ from the federal government’s view.”

In a 5-4 decision in June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states.

The Catholic Church’s leadership will continue “to promote and protect the natural truth of marriage as foundational to the common good,” they said. “The church will also continue to stand for the ability of all to exercise their religious beliefs and moral convictions in public life without fear of government discrimination.”

“In a climate of increasing intolerance, these protections are urgently needed,” Archbishop Kurtz and Bishop Conley said.

“The teaching of the Catholic Church about marriage is based on both faith and reason. Using right reason, one can know that given the nature of the human person, created as male and female, marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” they said.

Editor’s note: The text of the letter can be found at http://bit.ly/2paKqVK.

— Catholic News Service

James Reinke: Catholic teaching can aid discussion of Polymet mine

By James Reinke
Guest columnist

The Catholic voice has been missing from the public debate on the Polymet mine. Pope Francis made it clear in “Laudato Si,” his encyclical on the environment, that since Vatican II there has been a growing ecology component to the social dimension of the gospel. He wrote: “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork (mother Earth and all her creatures) is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”

For sure, individual Catholics have contributed to the discussion. However, some explicit and specific Catholic criteria for sustainable mining that could add to the quality of this debate have not been stated. What the papers and television generally report are largely hyperbole spoken from “I’m right and you’re wrong” perspectives, as though it were a competition.

The public is used to this. It’s what typically comes out of our political debates. One side claims that all hard rock mining, such as Polymet, results in an acidically contaminated site. The other soothingly assures that since they are Minnesotans they will do it “right.” Neither claim can be substantiated and, of course, can guarantee nothing. It is a contentious debate.

Environmentalists can point to acidic pollution and degradation all throughout the world and the United States (including the heavily polluted South Dakota copper-nickel Gilt Edge Mine pit visited by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton) created by mining enterprises — some pursued in a very slipshod manner and others that resulted in unexpected pollution. Given so many negative outcomes, Mark Twain quipped that “a mine is a hole in the ground with a liar at the top.”

On the other hand, there is a growing realization on the part of mine executives that it is in their best interest and most profitable for all to extract minerals in a sustainable and nonpolluting way. Mother Earth would agree.

The Catholic Church does not have an answer for whether or not the Polymet proposal should go forward. However, the church offers four general principles garnered from its social teaching that set criteria necessary for creating consensus on mining proposals. First, the upholding of the human dignity of every person involved in some way with the mining is nonnegotiable. Second, human beings are stewards of the environment, not dominators and exploiters. We have an obligation to pay to our home planet, God’s creation. Third, the principle of solidarity requires the interconnection of people locally, globally, and intergenerationally. Fourth, the common good requires an outcome that promotes the human flourishing of all.

These principles underlie key issues raised by Pope Francis. Assessing the environmental impact of this Polymet venture demands transparent political processes, characterized by a farsighted statecraft that prioritizes the long-term common good, and a decision-making process that is interdisciplinary, transparent, and free of all economic and political pressure.

This process should be geared to facilitating consensus among all stakeholders. The potential negative outcomes require that decisions be made based on a comparison of the risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives. The principle of subsidiarity demands that the local population has a seat among the stakeholders, given their special interest in the project’s impact on themselves and anticipating their children’s’ future. Likewise indigenous people have a vested interest.

Also, some considerations, such as water, must have a higher priority, since it is an indispensable resource and a fundamental right. The pope writes: “This indisputable fact overrides any other assessment of environmental impact on a region.” Additionally, when comparing the risks and benefits of the venture remains inconclusive, the Precautionary Principle defined in the Rio Declaration of 1992 demands that those supporting the mine prove it will not cause uncontrolled environmental damage, versus the typical expectation of being required to prove or demonstrate that it will.

Given such caveats, which stem from previous mining disasters, opposition to every new venture is not in the common good’s best interest. Rather, the final choice must show itself as stemming from a balanced, transparent process that is manifestly free from every dominating special interest, ideology, power, and financial consideration.

Pope Francis was educated as a scientist. He encourages informed and inclusive participation in a decision-making process that is transparent with necessary nonnegotiable priorities, and the precautionary principle — all of which stem from scientific consensus.

The Minnesota approval process should reflect such requirements. All perspectives need to be included to make this a fully informed process. We local Catholics, as well as those throughout the world, are stakeholders in this process and should question, research, Google, talk, participate, and join with others more informed.

Living out our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork" demands that each of us become involved with a perspective supporting the common good, and not just to join one of the competing teams. As stated earlier, the Catholic Church does not offer a specific answer to this enterprise. However, the church does offer four necessary Gospel principles, an expression of our most noble human qualities, to guide us in “striving intelligently, boldly and responsibly to promote a sustainable and equitable development within the context of a broader concept of quality-of-life” (192).

Take these principles and their goal, do some research, raise questions, and network, then go to polymet.mn.gov for information and to enter your comments on the four current permit requests by March 16. Contribute to a process that should be determined by current science and engineering, and not by loudness, money, numbers, or power.

This is not a team sport. Either we, all the generations after us, and the earth are winners, or we are all losers.

James Reinke writes from Duluth, where he attends St. Benedict Church.

Minnesota archbishop: Catholics belong in the public sphere

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said it is the duty of the laity to represent the Catholic faith in the public arena, especially pointing to the current debate surrounding immigration.

“Within the Church, it is the laity who are called upon to ‘especially assist with their Christian wisdom’ the shaping of the temporal order in order to both further the common good and prepare the way for the Gospel,” said Archbishop Hebda, citing the “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity” from the Second Vatican Council.

The archbishop’s call to action in a March 8 column for The Catholic Spirit came in preparation for the second of three “Capitol 101” workshops, focusing on educating and encouraging the Minnesota faithful to better participate in the legislative process.

The first session was held by the Minnesota Catholic Conference on Feb. 26, and follow up sessions will be held March 16 and April 17. At the workshops, attendees are able to meet Minnesota senators and representatives and learn about relevant policies and the legislative process.

Outside of the event, the Minnesota Catholic Conference has encouraged Catholics to offer an hour of adoration or a rosary for lawmakers and ask for the intercession of St. Thomas More, patron of statesmen.

The first workshop coincided with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s National Catholic Call-In Day in Support of Dreamers, which took place on Feb. 23.

The Call-In Day encouraged Catholics to contact their representatives in Washington, D.C., asking them to work toward a fair and compassionate solution for Dreamers — immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

A program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) had offered protection for these individuals, but the policy is set to expire. The U.S. bishops have called for a solution that protects Dreamers from deportation and provides a path to citizenship.

“Many of the Dreamers, through no fault of their own, had been brought here as infants or toddlers; the United States is accordingly the only home that they have known, and the prospect of deportation to an unknown country is devastating,” Archbishop Hebda said.

While political philosophies and perspectives differ, he said, it is always the obligation of Catholics to aid the process of peace.

He quoted the U.S. bishops’ document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which says, “Catholics may choose different ways to respond to compelling social problems, but we cannot differ on our moral obligation to help build a more just and peaceful world through morally acceptable means so that the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended.”

Noting that America’s Founding Fathers sought to protect the practice of faith in public life, the archbishop rejected the argument by some that separation of church and state means that religion should be excluded from the public square.

“They misread our Constitution as requiring a division between personal belief and public action, or between moral principles and political choices.”

Archbishop Hebda expressed gratitude for the success of first “Capitol 101” workshop and encouraged participation in the next two workshops, noting it is a responsibility of every Catholic to pray for the vulnerable and build a just community.

“All of us share the responsibility of striving to build a just community in which the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended. Let us pray for one another in undertaking this important work,” he said.

— Catholic News Agency

USCCB chairmen call faithful to prayer and action urging congress to enact the Conscience Protection Act

 

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty urge the faithful to flood Congress with emails and calls asking for enactment of the Conscience Protection Act as part of the 2018 funding bill and to pray for this outcome. Congress is currently considering whether to include the Conscience Protection Act in must-pass government funding legislation, and a decision on the Conscience Protection Act’s inclusion will be made prior to March 23, 2018.

The joint statement follows:

“Increasing and fierce attacks on conscience rights regarding abortion cry out for an immediate remedy. Nurses and other health care providers and institutions are being forced to choose between participating in abortions or leaving health care altogether. Churches and pro-life Americans are being forced to provide coverage for elective abortions—including late-term abortions—in their health care plans. Opponents and supporters of abortion should be able to agree that no one should be forced to participate in abortion. Congress must remedy this problem by enacting the Conscience Protection Act now as part of the FY 2018 funding bill.

“We call on all the faithful to pray and to act by emailing and calling Congress in the coming week especially on Monday, March 12 with the message that enacting the Conscience Protection Act is urgently needed to protect Americans from being forced to violate their deeply held convictions about respect for human life. Your calls and emails to your Members of Congress really do make a difference, so please act now to protect conscience rights!”

Members of Congress can be reached by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asking to be connected with your representative or senator.

Or you can email and call your Members of Congress quickly and easily at www.bit.ly/support-cpa

The USCCB has also created a video available on its YouTube channel and Facebook page.

For additional information and videos featuring nurses who were forced by their employers to choose between their jobs and participating in abortions go to www.usccb.org/conscience.