Toward a just response to the needs of mentally ill persons
A Statement of the Catholic Bishops of New York State
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart;
and free me from my anguish.
(PS 25: 16-17)
Mental illness does not discriminate. Neither age, nor ethnicity, nor economic or social status exempts one from its effects. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four adults, some 61.5 million people, experience some form of mental illness in a given year, and one in 17, or 13.6 million, live with a serious mental illness. About 20 percent of youth experience severe mental disorders in a given year. And for every mentally ill individual there is a family – parents, spouses, children, grandparents – who are directly impacted as well.
In our society, those with mental illness are often stigmatized, ostracized and alone. The suffering endured by mentally ill persons is a most difficult cross to bear, as is the sense of powerlessness felt by their families and loved ones. As the Psalmist called on God to deliver him from affliction and distress, so, too, does the person with mental illness cry out for healing. Our Judeo-Christian tradition calls us to be witnesses of God’s love and mercy and to be instruments of hope for these individuals. More
On November 5, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to decide an important matter affecting our communities. A statewide referendum of the people will be the final say on whether or not to amend the state’s Constitution to authorize casino gambling. As pastors and as citizens, we call on all voters to very carefully consider this measure and all of its potential implications.
In recent years, New York State has dramatically increased access to legalized gambling in an effort to raise revenue, with the state joining in multi-state lotteries and adding video slot machines and video poker at harness racing tracks across the state. With these initiatives, along with five Indian-run casinos, Off-Track Betting, and ever-increasing variations of scratch-off lotteries, gambling already is big business for the state. Now in a continued quest for additional revenue, the governor and legislature are seeking an amendment to allow for up to seven non-Indian casinos, the first four of which would be sited in three upstate regions.
Even if the state does realize economic benefits envisioned by our elected officials, we voters must also consider the potential for negative consequences. The Catholic Church teaches that gambling is a morally neutral act and that games of chance “are not in themselves contrary to justice” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2413). However, the Catechism also warns that “the passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement” and becomes morally unacceptable when it deprives an individual of what is necessary to provide for his/her needs and those of others.
When gambling as a revenue stream becomes overly prevalent in a society, the risks associated with problem gambling multiply. With their flashing lights, free-flowing alcoholic drinks, all-night hours and generally intoxicating atmosphere, casinos are more likely than other gambling options to lead to bad decisions and catastrophic losses for patrons, particularly those prone to problem or compulsive gambling. Interestingly, a study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago showed the availability of a casino within 50 miles is associated with double the prevalence of problem or pathological gamblers.
A 2009 study commissioned by the Connecticut Division of Special Revenue on the economic and social impact of Indian casinos in the state, found that while the casinos did boost employment and revenues, they also resulted in serious numerous negative consequences in the areas near the casinos and for individuals. These included a 400 percent increase in embezzlement arrests, a doubling of DWI arrests, and an increase in substandard and illegal housing for undocumented workers. Of the problem gamblers studied in the report, 62 percent gambled until their last dollar was gone. Personal bankruptcies in areas where the state’s two Indian casinos are located were more than 10 percent higher than the national norm in seven of the 10 years after the casinos were built. We must ask, will the presence of casinos forever change the character of areas like Saratoga Springs, the Catskill Mountains and the Southern Tier?
Furthermore, it does seem apparent that with all of the gambling options already available here, there is only so much revenue to be gained. Indeed, casinos in our neighboring states have been struggling for their very survival due to an oversaturated market, so it is difficult to see how New York’s casino operators will reverse that trend. And while some will argue the casinos will bring employment, the jobs that casinos create tend to be of the low-paying service variety, rather than good-paying, upwardly mobile careers that are so desperately needed upstate.
When looking at potential sources for new revenue, it is the responsibility of government and the voting public to consider all of the consequences, both positive and negative. While the language on the ballot cites the hoped-for economic benefits, we feel obligated to ask for a more definitive statement as to how and where the money generated by these casinos will be spent. We pray for the good judgment of New Yorkers in weighing all factors before deciding how they will vote on the widespread expansion of casino gambling across our beloved Empire State.
—The Catholic Bishops of New York State
September 29, 2013
Feast of SS. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael
Following is a statement of Timothy Cardinal Dolan and the Bishops of New York State:
We are profoundly distressed by the introduction of a bill in New York State today that would ease restrictions in state law on late-term abortion and runs the serious risk of broadly expanding abortion access at all stages of gestation. This legislation would add a broad and undefined “health” exception for late-term abortion and would repeal the portion of the penal law that governs abortion policy, opening the door for non-doctors to perform abortions and potentially decriminalizing even forced or coerced abortions. In addition, we find the conscience protection in the bill to be vague and insufficient, and we are concerned about the religious liberty of our health facilities. While the bill’s proponents say it will simply “codify” federal law, it is selective in its codification. Nowhere does it address the portions of federal laws that limit abortion, such as the ban on taxpayer funding, the ban on partial birth abortion or protections for unborn victims of violence.
As the pastors of more than 7.2 million Catholic New Yorkers, we fully oppose this measure, and urge all our faithful people to do the same, vigorously and unapologetically. We invite all women and men of good will to join in this effort and defeat this serious attempt to expand abortion availability in our state and to codify the most radical abortion proposals of any state in the nation.
We support the first nine points in the Governor’s agenda that enhance the true dignity of women. We commit ourselves to examining those proposals and working with the legislature on any and all efforts that help guarantee real equity for all women and men. Our position on these issues will be consistent with all the efforts of the Catholic Church throughout the world to enhance the dignity of women. The direct taking of the life of a child in the womb in no way enhances a woman’s dignity.
Instead of expanding abortion and making abortions even more prevalent, we would like to protect both the woman and the child in the womb. In New York, where one in every three pregnancies ends in abortion (and upwards of 6 in 10 in certain communities), it is clear that we as a state have lost sight of that child’s dignity. We pledge all our efforts to defeat this proposal. We call on all pro-life New Yorkers to stand together with us and with all the leadership in Albany who share our conviction that we have no need for such a bill to become law. We need instead to enhance and promote the life and dignity of all human beings from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.
A companion piece, Comprehensive Plan for Catechetical Leader in the Third Millennium is available here.
Watch highlights of the launch event, include a Mass featuring Cardinal Dolan and the Bishops of New York State, here.
We the Bishops of New York State have a history of collaboration with the New York State Council of Diocesan Directors of Religious Education. This collaboration was evident in the jointly written pastoral vision for catechists in New York State entitled The Catechist in the Third Millennium, which was published in 1998. That document affirmed the primacy of catechesis in the mission of the Church and called for a renewed commitment to the recruitment, formation and ministry of the catechist as a top priority in our parishes and Catholic schools. The document not only provided our state with a framework for forming catechists, it earned a national award for providing the province with a unified vision of catechist formation. In addition, we published a document in 1988, Journeying Toward a Future Full of Promise, which presented a vision for catechesis in New York State. Ongoing collaboration of the chief catechists of the dioceses and their diocesan catechetical leaders has resulted in the further integration of this vision, which is lived out in various ways in each particular diocese. More
Timothy Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York, discusses the Catholic call to faithful citizenship in this video produced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, of which he serves as president. To read the U.S. Bishops’ statement “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, go HERE.
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In our recent visit to the state Capitol in Albany, we had the opportunity to meet personally with Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, and numerous legislators. While we came prepared to speak on various concerns that we brought to their attention, our first words in every meeting after the initial greetings were “Thank you.”
This may sound odd given the very public and profound disagreements we have had on some extraordinarily important issues, but our thanks were genuine nevertheless. Specifically, we thanked them for bringing a new era of competence and cooperation to Albany. We believe in giving credit where credit is due, and we applauded them for that.
With that being said, it is our fervent hope that this spirit of bipartisan cooperation can extend to another critical issue for thousands of New York workers, and that is a modest increase in the state’s minimum wage. We are aware that there are many in the legislature who firmly believe such action would have a negative impact on the very people it seeks to help. Perhaps just as many believe the opposite is true. We don’t pretend to be economists, but we are pastors, and we do oversee the largest nongovernmental network of health, education and charitable ministries in the state. What we can tell you from first-hand experience is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the working poor of our state to make ends meet. A full-time minimum-wage earner will bring in $15,080 per year, which is $4,010 below the 2012 federal poverty guidelines for a family of three.
Our sustained recession and painfully slow recovery have left many of these workers – often people of color and frequently the newest immigrants to our shores who therefore have the fewest support systems – on the brink of homelessness, with not enough in their paychecks to pay for the most basic of necessities, like food, medicine or clothing for their children. The argument that minimum wage jobs go solely to high school students just entering the workforce does not hold true in the current economy, with the unemployment rate near 10 percent in New York City and 8.5 percent statewide. Workers who previously never would have considered such low-paying jobs are now taking them out of desperation.
By no means do we question the intentions or motivations of our good friends in the legislature who oppose an increase in the minimum wage. But it is our hope and our prayer that the two sides could come together for some sort of action to address the grave problems facing the lowest wage earners in our state. We believe an increase in the minimum wage is a matter of fairness and justice, and we hope it can be addressed soon. And when that happens, we will be so happy to come once again to Albany to say personally, on behalf of those most poor and vulnerable New Yorkers, thank you.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre held a Public Policy Convocation March 3 in Hicksville in preparation for the March 13 Catholics at the Capitol Day sponsored by the New York State Catholic Conference in Albany. More than 700 Catholics attended the event and were treated to an excellent keynote address by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York, on the intersection of Faith and Politics. The video below from Telecare includes an interview and insightful homily by Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, as well as the Cardinal’s full address. As Cardinal Dolan said in his 2010 Catholics at the Capitol homily, religion and politics “go together as naturally as a hot dog and a bun.” The Hicksville address is inspiring and well worth watching.
Now and at the Hour of Our Death: A Catholic Guide to End-of-Life Decision-Making
Advances in medical technologies bring with them new means of curing disease and living longer, healthier lives than ever before. But they can also be the source of heightened patient anxiety about a needlessly prolonged, painful and expensive dying process. Medical advances bring with them new and complex questions with regard to medical treatments and moral decision-making. More
A statement of gratitude from the Catholic Bishops of New York State to the faithful following the vigor with which so many faithful Catholic New Yorkers fought to preserve the true meaning of marriage as the state radically redefined it. More