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Protect Vulnerable Families from Domestic Violence, Archbishop Gudziak Affirms

WASHINGTON - “The common good demands that society protect vulnerable women and children from domestic violence, and reasonable restrictions on gun possession to ensure their safety do not violate the Constitution,” said Archbishop Borys Gudziak, addressing the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Rahimi. The Court ruled that a federal statute, which protects families by barring firearm possession for individuals subject to a protective order, is constitutional under the Second Amendment.

“Violence in any form is sinful, and the bishops have stated as clearly and strongly as we can that violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified. We welcome today's opinion in upholding safeguards for women and children against gun violence.  Properly understood, the Constitution does not require that a victim of domestic violence should fear for her life. Today, the Court has affirmed the government's ability to protect victims of abuse.”

The USCCB’s amicus brief in United States v. Rahimi may be found here


Safeguarding: Church must place disabled persons at center, experts say

ROME (CNS) -- To prevent abuse across the board, the Catholic Church must place disabled persons at the center of its safeguarding efforts and ministry, speakers said at an international safeguarding conference in Rome.

Hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University's Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care, the June 18-21 conference brought global experts to Rome to discuss the relationship between safeguarding and disability.

During the conference, Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the institute, told Catholic News Service that the theme for this year's edition of the conference was selected to bridge the gap that exists between safeguarding -- referring to practices meant to address and prevent emotional, physical and sexual abuse -- and caring for people with disabilities.

"The framework is there but very often it is not really linked to the real needs of the people on the ground, of those who have been abused, and so we are here to learn from those with disabilities what their particular needs are and what the church can do as one of the key players in the health system worldwide in the implementation and inculturation of these different models that we have," he told CNS June 18.

After the conference was opened by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, Sheila Hollins, delivered the opening keynote address. Hollins was a founding member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and founded Books Beyond Words -- a non-profit that produces word-free books for people with disabilities that engage with topics from relationships to surviving abuse.

She said "although disabled people might be a minority demographically, they're at considerably greater risk (of abuse), and if disclosure was easier for them they may actually constitute a majority of abused people."

Laureen Lynch-Ryan, coordinator of deaf ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington, presents at a conference.
Laureen Lynch-Ryan, coordinator of deaf ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington, presents at a conference on safeguarding and disability hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University's Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care in Rome June 18, 2024. (CNS photo/courtesy Pontifical Gregorian University)

She told CNS that many "unconscious biases" put disabled persons at risk of abuse, such as the perception that nobody would abuse a disabled person because of their impairment. Disabled people also face additional barriers "to being heard, to being able to explain, to being able to understand" their abuse, she said.

Hollins, a Catholic and parent of five disabled adult children, said those biases and barriers can arise within the church by considering disabled people as "other" than non-disabled church-goers. As a result, the church can perpetuate structural exclusion of disabled people, such as by not creating space for wheelchair users in the congregation or holding separate Masses for neurally divergent people.

Hollins suggested that a way to root sensitivity to the experience of disability in the church could be to have every seminarian "get to know a disabled person and their family, their lives, and continue knowing them, because they've become part of their circle."

"I think that we could actually change things quite substantially by getting priests to get to know disabled people," she said.

Laureen Lynch-Ryan, coordinator of deaf ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington who presented her talk at the conference in American Sign Language, told CNS through a sign-language interpreter that while there has been a lot of research about the disability community and abuse, "specifically within the deaf community there is very little research regarding abuse and the church."

Additionally, she stressed that direct input from disabled and deaf people must be involved in the development of safeguarding policies. Safeguarding training, Lynch-Ryan said, "goes through hearing systems" and is developed by "people that don't have experience working with deaf people or even people with disabilities."

Maryann Barth, course designer at the University of Dayton and board member of the Deaf Catholic Youth Initiative for the Americas, said the conference is key to exploring ways of overcoming the obstacles involved in protecting people with disabilities, especially since "the main barrier that we face is communication."

Barth told CNS through an interpreter that in her presentation at the conference she aimed to explain "the theory behind language deprivation, language dysfluency," which she said "really impacts deaf children who have experienced abuse."

Sheila Hollins, a founding member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and founder of Books Beyond Words, speaks at a conference.
Sheila Hollins, a founding member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and founder of Books Beyond Words, speaks at a conference on safeguarding and disability hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University's Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care in Rome June 18, 2024. (CNS photo/courtesy Pontifical Gregorian University)

There needs to be a framework for what hearing people can do to safeguard deaf people, she said, and help for those that have been abused, "because if somebody were to come to try to disclose (abuse), the other barrier is the ability to express what they experienced, and we need to be able to be present and help them navigate that."

Dafne Aida Zapata Pratto, a psychologist at Antonio Ruiz de Montoya University in Peru, said that biased beliefs about disabled people prevent society and the church from reaching out to people with disabilities and considering their needs in order to be fully integrated into the community

For example, she told CNS, that a widespread myth among Peruvians is that disability is a "divine punishment" for a sin or error committed by a family and that "many families have prejudices against their disabled children."

Combatting that attitude "is an important challenge for the church," Zapata said. "How can the church change the image of God and make people understand that disability is not a punishment?"

The church's response must involve including disabled people more centrally in the life of the church but also considering "the type of message and image of God that we express and share with others," she said.

Jesuit Father Justin Glyn, general counsel for the Australian Province of the Society of Jesus and a visually impaired person, said that as society becomes increasingly individualistic and achievement-based, the church has a key role in upholding a sense of community that is central to the experience of disability.

"The disabled world is the world of interdependence," he told CNS. "We may need assistance in various ways, but we can provide it also."

Similarly, Catholics professing the communion of saints "don't believe that salvation is an individual thing," he said.

"We are the people who actually are invested in each other in Christ," Father Glyn said," and disability is a classic demonstration of that."

US church needs culturally sensitive safeguarding training, expert says

ROME (CNS) -- The diversity of the Catholic Church in the United States requires that it develop a culturally sensitive approach to preventing abuse, a safeguarding expert said.

Although the U.S. church, like the church in Europe, has structures in place to promote safeguarding to a higher degree than churches with less resources, "there are cultural aspects that need to be taken into account," Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Pontifical Gregorian University's Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care, said.

"The more diverse a society is and a local church is, the more it needs to respect the different cultures, languages, habits, mentalities that are represented," he told Catholic News Service June 18 on the sidelines of an international safeguarding conference hosted by the institute.

Given the diversity within the U.S. church, it must "be aware that there are different types of (ways) how you establish relationships, how you interact and express yourself, in different parts of the world," Father Zollner said.

According to a 2023 report by the Pew Research Center, 57% of U.S. Catholics are white, non-Hispanic, while 33% are Hispanic, 4% are Asian, 2% are Black and 3% are of another race.

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner sits for an interview.
Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Pontifical Gregorian University's Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care, is interviewed by Catholic News Service Reporter Justin McLellan during a safeguarding conference at the university in Rome June 18, 2024. (CNS photo/Courtesy Pontifical Gregorian University)

Racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in U.S. churches presents the challenge of communicating the sensitivity around safeguarding in ways that cut through cultural differences, he said.

"When we talk with people from a different background do we really talk the same language in regard to sexuality, to harassment? How do we approach people, how you relate to people, talk about difficult issues?" Father Zollner asked.

He said the church in the United States must make significant effort "so that these ethnicities are more likely to come on board, and so that people don't get the impression of a sort of ‘neo-colonialism’ by just applying the same type of structure, language, or educational programs to people who have a different outlook."

"Law and guidelines are important," he said, "but law does not change the heart. It does not automatically change mentality."

Father Zollner stressed the need for the church "to learn to tell the intention of guidelines in a narrative way. And the narration needs to come in symbols, in language, that can be understood on the ground. "

In many cultures, for example, sexuality is "a complete taboo in the public debate," and, as a result, "people don't have the courage to talk about this and are not educated in family, schools, or religions to do so."

Still, he maintained that the Catholic Church is still a leader in safeguarding, since "no religion and no denomination have made the same strides in safeguarding activity, which means setting up guidelines for all types of institutions, (and) the training of personnel, full-time or volunteers."

But still, the church's implementation of safeguarding practices are "far from perfect and far from consistent," Father Zollner said.

"In many places, we don't implement our own law," for example in addressing cover up of abuse,, he said, which is "an institutional failure of great importance because it undermines the credibility of the Gospel message."

Additionally, he noted that the church often fails to collaborate on safeguarding with other religions, denominations, the state and non-government organizations.

While Father Zollner praised the extensive work already done by the Catholic Church to prevent abuse, "we are the biggest player in this field, so we have a special obligation."

Bishop Burbidge Reflects on Anniversary of Dobbs Decision and the Impact of the Eucharistic Revival on the Pro-Life Movement

WASHINGTON - On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that had legalized abortion in all 50 states. In advance of the anniversary of the Court’s landmark decision, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged the faithful to engage elected officials on life issues, and reflected on the power of the Eucharist to transform hearts and culture:

“This anniversary calls us to reflect on where we have been and where we are going,” Bishop Burbidge stated. “This fall, as many as ten additional states will have abortion referenda on their ballots, allowing voters to enshrine ‘abortion rights’ and override existing pro-life safeguards. At the same time, Congress has been promoting many pro-abortion policies while largely ignoring our calls to prioritize maternal health and support for children and families in need.”

“In the spirit of faithful citizenship, I urge Catholics to engage their elected officials on all issues endangering life,” he said. “As we navigate this shifting political landscape, I cannot help but think the Holy Spirit has inspired our National Eucharistic Revival for such a time as this. Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist has the power to transform our own hearts and the heart of our culture.”

Read Bishop Burbidge’s full statement here.


World Refugee Day 2024: Hope Emerges from Human Tragedy

WASHINGTON - On World Refugee Day (June 20), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) joins with others around the world in honoring refugees and the communities that welcome them. This annual observation serves as a poignant reminder of the millions of individuals and families forcibly displaced from their homes and the importance of durable protection mechanisms, such as the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, underscored the importance of refugee protection for the Catholic Church:

“On World Refugee Day, we reflect on the urgent need to promote the dignity and rights of refugees, as well as the positive contributions they make to our communities. As Catholics, we are called by the Gospel and Church teaching to embrace our brothers and sisters fleeing for their lives, offering them compassion, support, and solidarity. For generations, Catholics across the United States have embodied this through their commitment to refugee resettlement. In these efforts, we witness the resiliency of refugees, and we recognize in them a hope for new life, which resonates in the heart of every Christian. May this work of welcome continue to inspire within us a deeper awareness of our own journey toward everlasting life.”

Through its Department of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), the USCCB is one of ten national resettlement agencies partnering with the federal government on USRAP. This is one of the ways in which the Catholic community in the United States answers Christ’s call to welcome the stranger and advances the Church’s concern for human life and dignity.

For more information on World Refugee Day, please visit the Justice for Immigrants website.

For more information on the USCCB’s work related to migration and refugee resettlement, visit


Praying with the Book of Psalms will bring comfort, happiness, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- There is a prayer for every state of mind and spiritual need in the Book of Psalms, Pope Francis said.

"There are many psalms that help us forge ahead. Get into the habit of praying the psalms. I assure you that you will be happy in the end," the pope said during his June 19 general audience.

The pope also reminded people that June 20 marks World Refugee Day, established by the United Nations to focus on solidarity with refugees. "We are all called to welcome, promote, accompany and integrate those who knock on our doors," he said.

"I pray that nations will work to ensure humane conditions for refugees and facilitate processes for integration," he said. 

pope audience
Visitors greet Pope Francis as he rides the popemobile around St. Peter's Square at the Vatican before his weekly general audience June 19, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

During his main catechesis, the pope continued his series on the Holy Spirit and highlighted the importance of prayer, especially in preparation for Holy Year 2025.

All the books of the Bible are inspired by the Holy Spirit, he said, "but the Book of Psalms is also so in the sense that it is full of poetic inspiration."

The psalms were the prayer of Jesus, Mary, the Apostles and all previous Christian generations, he said. Jesus enters into the world with a verse from a psalm in his heart, "I delight to do your will, my God (Ps 40:9), and he leaves the world with another verse, "Into your hands I commend my spirit" (Ps 31:6).

"Do you pray with the psalms sometimes?" the pope asked, reminding people that there are special editions that contain the New Testament and the psalms together.

"I have on my desk a Ukrainian edition" of the New Testament and the psalms that belonged to a soldier who died in the war, he said. "He used to pray at the front with this book," referring to the 23-year-old soldier named Oleksandr. 

pope audience 6 19
Pope Francis speaks to visitors in St. Peter's Square during his weekly general audience at the Vatican June 19, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

"If there are psalms, or just verses, that speak to our heart, it is good to repeat them and pray them during the day. The psalms are prayers 'for all seasons': There is no state of mind or need that does not find in them the best words to be transformed into prayer," the pope said.

The psalms also allow the faithful to expand on the nature of their prayers, he said, so prayers are not just a series of requests and a continuous "give me, give us."

"The psalms help us to open ourselves to a prayer that is less focused on ourselves: a prayer of praise, of blessing, of thanksgiving; and they also help us give voice to all creation, involving it in our praise," he said. 

pope chinese
Pope Francis looks at a poster from Chinese visitors in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican at his weekly general audience June 19, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican)

At the end of his main talk, the pope greeted an Italian association supporting the late Cardinal Celso Costantini, a former apostolic delegate in China who led the Council of the Chinese Catholic Church 100 years ago with the aim of revitalizing the mission of the church in China.

The pope greeted "the dear Chinese people" and asked Catholics to always pray "for this noble people, so brave, who have such a beautiful culture."

In greeting Polish-speaking visitors, the pope gave God thanks for a new blessed: Father Michal Rapacz, a martyr of communism, who was beatified in Kraków June 15.

Blessed Rapacz was an early victim of Poland's communist regime as he refused to abandon his parishioners and his pastoral work. The pope prayed "his example (may) teach us to be faithful to God, to respond to evil with good, to contribute in the building of a fraternal and peaceful world."

"We pray that his witness may become a sign of consolation from God in these times marked by wars," he said, praying that the new blessed "intercede for Poland and to obtain peace in the world!"

Pope: Pray the Psalms!

Pope: Pray the Psalms!

A look at Pope Francis' general audience June 19, 2024.

As Legislative Stalemate on Immigration Reform Continues, Longtime Undocumented Residents and their Families Deserve Protection, says Bishop Seitz

WASHINGTON - “We welcome today’s announcement and the hope it brings to thousands of American families who have grappled with the fear of separation for a decade or more,” said Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, following the Biden Administration’s announcement of a new program for the undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens. The program allows select individuals who have resided in the country for at least ten years to apply for parole in place, which offers access to legal work authorization and protection from removal if granted, as well as the potential to apply for permanent legal status in certain cases. A similar program has been available to military service members and their families for several years. This comes days after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program marked twelve years since it was first announced. 

Speaking as chairman of the Committee on Migration for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Seitz stated:

“As we commemorate the twelfth anniversary of DACA, we’ve seen the positive impacts such programs can have, not only for beneficiaries themselves but for the families, employers, and communities that rely on them. This new program is sure to yield similar benefits. However, as the fate of DACA hangs in the balance, we also know how insufficient these programs are. Legislators have a moral and patriotic duty to improve our legal immigration system, including the opportunities available for family reunification and preservation. A society is only as strong as its families, and family unity is a fundamental right. For the good of the country, Congress must find a way to overcome partisan divisions and enact immigration reform that includes an earned legalization program for longtime undocumented residents.”


Discouraging Political Violence, Archbishop Gudziak Encourages Pursuit of Peace Through Dialogue and Justice

WASHINGTON – In a statement titled, “‘Pursue What Leads to Peace’: A Christian Response to Rising Threats of Political and Ideological Violence,” Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia urged all Christians and people of good will to avoid political violence of any kind and instead to pursue peace through dialogue and justice.

The statement was issued in Archbishop Gudziak’s capacity as chairman of the Committee for Domestic Justice and Human Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The statement comes during a presidential election cycle in which partisan speech has intensified, and in which negative sentiment, insults, fear, anger, and anxiety have become more prevalent.

The full statement can be found here.

The USCCB’s Civilize It: A Better Kind of Politics initiative can serve as a helpful resource during election season as Catholics seek to engage with love and practice civil dialogue.


Supreme Court Ruling Does Not Change the Facts about Abortion Pills, says Bishop Burbidge

WASHINGTON - “The Court’s ruling late last week on procedural grounds does not change the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] repeatedly and unlawfully cut corners to put chemical abortion pills on the market and then to reduce the safety protocols around them – putting the health of women and girls at risk,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine.

In its decision on Thursday, the Court determined that the pro-life health care professionals who brought the lawsuit did not have the legally required standing to challenge the FDA’s actions that have now made the abortion drug, mifepristone (previously known as RU-486), widely available.

Bishop Burbidge continued, “From my heart, I thank all of the faithful who joined Archbishop Broglio and myself in prayer regarding this important case. We will continue to pray, to advocate for the health and safety of women and the preborn, and to lovingly serve mothers in need so that they may feel prepared to welcome their children.”

The USCCB had joined an amicus curiae brief in the case in February. On the eve of oral arguments in March, Bishop Burbidge and Archbishop Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA and president of the USCCB, offered a nationwide invitation to prayer for the case and for the lives of women and their children. For more information on chemical abortion (sometimes called “medical abortion” or “medication abortion” by its proponents), the USCCB has multiple fact sheets available online.


U.S. Bishops Approve New Guidelines for Pastoral Ministries with Youth and Young Adults

WASHINGTON – Last week at their annual June Plenary Assembly in Louisville, Ky., the bishops of the United States took up a vote on a national pastoral framework to guide ministries with youth and young adults. The document, “Listen, Teach, Send” is intended for use by pastors, ministry leaders, and families pastors.

While an overwhelming number of bishops voted in favor of approving the framework at the time of the vote during the plenary, the measure fell two votes short of meeting the threshold of two-thirds of the Conference membership to pass. Therefore, the bishops eligible to vote who were not present at the time the vote were contacted this week with the opportunity to cast their vote. As of the close of business on Monday, June 17, ten additional votes were secured for the measure to pass with 188 in favor of, 4 against, and 4 abstentions.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, chaired by Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, developed the framework in response to “Christus vivit,” issued by Pope Francis in 2019 following the Synod on Young People. The framework is the fruit of an extensive listening and dialogue process with youth, young adults, and ministry leaders, with care taken to address the realities impacting youth and young adults across the United States.

Bishop Barron cited the Emmaus story (Lk 24: 13-35) as the inspiration and guide to the development of the framework. “Jesus gave us a wonderful example of how to accompany youth and young adults on their paths of life through the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. This well-known and often cited biblical story has been emphasized by Pope Francis as a model for what happens in ministry work, and we also used it as our guide.

“Like the Lord on the road to Emmaus, we first listen to the stories, joys, and concerns of those we encounter along the way. We respond with dynamic, kerygmatic, and heartfelt teaching that shares the light of Christ and seeks to bring about a conversion of heart. And finally, we set the conditions in our ministries and families to send the young forth to follow God’s call for their lives, so that they might transform the world with love. This triptych of ‘listen, teach, and send’ serves as a solid foundation in our homes and churches from which we can build and engage young people.”

The primary audiences for the national framework are pastors, ministry leaders, and families. Two key goals are a revitalization of ministries with youth (teenagers) and young adults (those ages 18 to 30s) in Catholic faith communities and a renewal of intergenerational accompaniment in families.

In addition to the framework, the bishops also affirmed an introductory letter addressed directly to youth and young adults, assuring them of the love of God and the Church and encouraging them to engage more deeply with the Catholic faith.

The promulgation of “Listen, Teach, Send” comes on the fifth anniversary of Christus vivit, yet it is not the first time the U.S. bishops have spoken collectively on ministries with young people. Past documents addressing ministry with adolescents and/or youth have included: “A Vision for Youth Ministry” (1976); “Empowered by the Spirit” (1985) on college campus ministry; “Sons and Daughters of the Light” (1996) on ministry with young adults; and “Renewing the Vision” (1997). The USCCB also shared particular insights on pastoral juvenil hispana (Hispanic/Latino youth and young adult ministries) in “Missionary Disciples Going Forth with Joy: National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry” (2023).

The full text of Listen, Teach, Send, as well as many accompanying pastoral resources, will be posted to the USCCB website: Resources will include bulletin inserts, prayer materials, webinars and workshops, background information on youth, young adults, and ministries with young people, and implementation guides for church and family settings.