News Releases

NYS Catholic Charities Directors to honor two at annual convening in Albany Feb. 6

Date posted: January 23, 2017

Joseph Slavik, the recently retired President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Syracuse, and Mary Olsen, director of Disaster Response for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany and diocesan liaison for Catholic Relief Services, will be honored by the New York State Council of Catholic Charities Directors at a reception on Monday, February 6, at 5:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Albany. The reception is part of the Council’s two-day convening Feb. 6-7, in which Catholic Charities personnel from all eight New York Dioceses advocate with elected and state agency officials on important issues of concern to the poor and vulnerable.

Mr. Slavik will receive the Bishop Francis J. Mugavero Award for outstanding contributions to the work of charity and social justice. The award is named for the late Bishop of Brooklyn. Mrs. Olsen will receive the Vincenza DeFazio Award for outstanding contributions to the work of New York State Council of Catholic Charities Directors. The award is named for a deceased long-time attorney with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.
Mr. Slavik was with Catholic Charities of Syracuse from 1975 until his recent retirement at the end of 2016. He began his career at Catholic Charities in 1975 as director of youth services in Binghamton. Five years later he became director of Catholic Charities of Broome County, and in 2010 he was appointed to president and CEO of the diocesan Catholic Charities.

“Joe Slavik’s tenure as the head of Catholic Charities in Syracuse helped make the organization more efficient and responsive to community needs, whether that took the form of feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, or welcoming the immigrant,” said Vincent W. Colonno, CEO of Catholic Charities of Albany and chair of the Council of Catholic Charities Directors. “His work and enthusiastic attitude inspired all of us, and he was a constant source of encouragement and support to the other heads of Catholic Charities organizations through the Council of Catholic Charities Directors. I consider Joe a close friend and a colleague, and an example of service to the less fortunate.”

Mrs. Olsen began her career in Catholic Charities of Albany in 1984, as part of the office staff, rising through the ranks to her current position in 2000, in which she oversees the diocesan administration of Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and disaster response and recovery.

“Mary Olsen has been an integral part of Catholic Charities since first coming to the agency in 1984, and in that time, she’s contributed immeasurably to the efforts and priorities of the Council,” said Colonno. “In her 33 years here she has brought professionalism, a high level of organization, compassion, and humor to each project she has worked on. Over the years, she has built numerous positive relationships with officials here in the Albany Diocese and has advanced the Council’s work and goals in many venues. Those we have served in that regard have benefited from Mary’s dedication, and we are blessed to have her as part of the Catholic Charities family.”

The Catholic Conference represents New York State’s Bishops in matters of public policy.

Statement on appointment of Bishop Barres to Rockville Centre Diocese

Date posted: December 9, 2016

60121d7c-7971-455e-bf00-14de70a10d13Following is a statement from Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference on this morning’s announcement that Pope Francis has named Bishop John O. Barres of Allentown, Pa., as Bishop of Rockville Centre, succeeding Bishop William F. Murphy, whose retirement has been accepted:

“We offer a warm welcome to Bishop Barres to the Diocese of Rockville Centre and to the New York State Catholic Conference. We look forward to working closely with him for many years to come in advancing public policies that serve and protect the most vulnerable of our state’s citizens – the poor and marginalized, immigrants, the elderly and infirm, people with disabilities, and children, born and unborn. We know that, like his predecessor, Bishop Barres will be a strong voice for all of these populations and an advocate for our constitutional rights of conscience and religious liberty. We at the Conference assure Bishop Barres of our prayers and our loyalty as we work together to have a positive impact on the lives of all New Yorkers.

“As we greet Bishop Barres, we also take this opportunity to stress our deep gratitude to and affection for Bishop William F. Murphy. Bishop Murphy was installed as Bishop of Rockville Centre less than a week before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and immediately distinguished himself as a shepherd of profound compassion and empathy as he consoled a grieving diocese, which lost so many souls that day. In the years that followed, he has served the diocese and as a member of the Executive Committee of the New York State Catholic Conference with dedication.”

The New York State Catholic Conference represents the Bishops of New York State in matters of public policy.

Joint Catholic Charities effort to serve 30,000 high-needs children

Date posted: December 8, 2016

A joint initiative of four upstate diocesan Catholic Charities agencies that will coordinate services for high-needs children is launching today with an initial rollout in 37 counties, that could soon reach 48 of the state’s 62 counties. When the Encompass Family Health Home reaches full capacity, it is anticipated that it will serve 30,000 children per year.

Catholic Charities of Broome County is the lead agency in the joint initiative, called Encompass Family Health Home, which was selected back in June 2015 by the New York State Department of Health as one of such 16 entities throughout the state. Partners include the Catholic Charities agencies of the Dioceses of Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse. More

Pastors, Parishes, & Political Responsibility

Date posted: March 22, 2016

Guidelines for permissible political activities by Catholic organizations

(For a printable version, go HERE)

In the United States of America, all adult citizens are blessed to have the opportunity to vote for our political leaders. This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly, and the Bishops of New York State have once again renewed their call to Catholic citizens to inform their consciences on the critical issues of the day, to learn the positions of candidates for office, and to exercise their right to vote. These issues include, but are not limited to, respect for the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death, issues of war and peace, religious liberty, the education and formation of children, the needs of the poor, oppressed and vulnerable, and access to health care for all people, particularly the elderly and infirm. 

In the document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the bishops of the United States remind us of the role of the Church in the public square. “The United States Constitution protects the right of individual believers and religious bodies to participate and speak out without government interference, favoritism, or discrimination. …Our nation’s tradition of pluralism is enhanced, not threatened, when religious groups and people of faith bring their convictions into public life. Indeed, our Church’s teaching is in accord with the foundational values that have shaped our nation’s history: ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ ”

But the document goes further than asserting the rights of Catholics to participate in the political process. It notes that such participation is obligatory. “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation…The obligation to participate in political life is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do.”

Turning again to Faithful Citizenship, we are reminded of the importance of a well-formed conscience: “The Church equips its members to address political questions by helping them develop a well-formed conscience.”  It is the exercise of conscience, aided by prudential judgment, that assists Catholics in determining effective ways to promote the common good. The U.S. Bishops state, “Catholic voters should use the framework of Catholic social teaching to examine candidates’ positions on issues affecting human life and dignity as well as issues of justice and peace, and they should consider candidates’ integrity, philosophy, and performance. It is important for all citizens ‘to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest’ (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 33).” More

Catholic Conference applauds state Senate for passage of Education Tax Credit bill

Date posted: January 11, 2016
Cardinal Dolan being honored by Senate after delivering opening prayer of session Jan. 6, 2016.

Cardinal Dolan being honored by Senate after delivering opening prayer of session Jan. 6, 2016. (Christina Primero/NYS Senate)

The New York State Catholic Conference applauds the New York State Senate for once again passing the Education Tax Credit bill, with a bipartisan vote of 47-15. As one of the first Senate bills passed in the 2016 session, it clearly demonstrates that the tax credit will be a priority for senators as it negotiates with Gov. Cuomo and the Assembly on the state budget. More

Fatal Flaws in Assisted Suicide Legislation (S.5814-A, Bonacic / A.5261-C, Paulin)

Date posted: December 16, 2015

Candle extinguished 2Printable PDF

Proponents of the “Patient Self-Determination Act” argue that it contains safeguards which protect vulnerable patients. Yet a close examination of the bill’s language reveals inadequate protections for patients most at risk of abuse, and lower medical standards than elsewhere in the Public Health Law. In addition, the legislation lacks transparency and accountability and contains extremely weak conscience protections for both health care professionals and health care institutions.

1. The bill invites coercion and undue influence.

  • The bill requires two witnesses to a patient’s written request for assisted suicide, and one of these two witnesses cannot be “a relative of the patient…a person who at the time the request is signed would be entitled to any portion of the estate of the patient…[or]an owner, operator or employee of a health care facility.” § 2899-d(12)

  • However, the bill does not prohibit the other witness from being a relative, a person entitled to a portion of the patient’s estate, or a person associated with the health care facility where the patient is receiving treatment. There is also no requirement that either witness be an adult or even someone who knows the patient.

  • This is problematic because patients, particularly isolated elderly patients in long-term care facilities, are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. In theory, one witness may be a person who has a vested financial interest in the patient’s death, and the other witness may be a minor.

  • There is no requirement that a patient be determined to be competent and acting voluntarily at the time that they self-administer the lethal drugs. This leaves patients vulnerable to coercion and abuse once they are outside of the direct oversight of their doctor.


Statement of Cardinal Dolan regarding Education Tax Credit and mandated services reimbursement

Date posted: June 23, 2015

I am heartened by the promising news out of Albany that the Governor and the leadership of the State Senate and the State Assembly have reached an agreement that will enable the payment of $250 million in unreimbursed mandated services to Catholic and other religious and non-public schools around New York State.  This money, which has been owed for several years, is sorely needed by our schools, many of whom have been struggling to remain open.

We Catholic leaders were part of a broad coalition of religious leaders, business executives, labor officials, parents, and many others, all of whom fought long and hard on behalf of the Education Investment Tax Credit, a bill that would have helped all of our children, in public, religious, charter, and private schools. We are disappointed that, once again, we have come up short, but we will redouble our efforts next year to make this common-sense bill become law.  We remain ever more committed to the principle of parental choice in education.

However, on behalf of Catholics throughout New York, and especially the parents who send their children to our schools, let me express appreciation to Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan, and Assembly Speaker Heastie for recognizing the needs of our schools, and the action they have taken today.

Catholic schools for generations have been a lifeline for low-income families. Our schools have helped countless children, many of them new to our shores, reach their full potential and rise out of poverty. We are committed to maintaining a strong Catholic school system, and continue to urge lawmakers to finally do their part in helping these parents exercise their right to educational choice for their children.

The Markey Bill: Ten times proposed, never enacted. There’s a good reason.

Date posted: June 8, 2015

As a sexual abuse crisis engulfs New York City public schools, Assembly Member Margaret Markey is again promoting a bill to make it easier for sexual abuse victims to sue almost anyone – except public schools. This bill is fatally flawed, which is why it has been consistently rejected. There are several reasons why Markey’s approach is the wrong one.

1. This is not a controversy over criminal penalties for sexual abusers.

There is no controversy in the New York Legislature about the need to protect children and prevent sexual abuse. Yet the Markey bill, proposed seven times, has never been enacted. There is a good reason – and it’s not related to prospectively extending the criminal or civil statutes of limitations so sexual abusers can be prosecuted or sued.

Indeed, there is broad agreement on extending the criminal statute of limitations to cover non-felony sexual offenses, just as there was broad support in 2006 when New York enacted a law eliminating the criminal statute of limitations on felony sex offenses. There also is broad agreement on prospectively extending the civil statute of limitations, giving victims of sexual abuse up to five additional years to file civil lawsuits claiming sexual abuse

2. Amid a sexual abuse crisis in New York City public schools, the Markey bill selectively targets private schools and exempts public schools. Why?

The fundamental objection to the Markey bill is that it eliminates the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits for sexual abuse claims that are decades old. Statutes of limitations establish a reasonable time period in which civil lawsuits must be filed. This bill would waive that time period for one year, allowing any lawsuit claiming sexual abuse at any time in history to be filed against any party – with one very big exception. The Markey selectively targets private organizations – religious groups, private schools, non-profits and businesses. Public schools and other government entities are exempted due to the restrictive “notice of claims” requirements put on individuals who wish to sue public institutions, which her bill does not address.

This is not an oversight. Markey introduced a bill in 2009 that applied evenly to public and private schools and other entities. But she abandoned that approach because of the broad, legitimate opposition to any proposal that invited more lawsuits against every public school and municipality in New York State.

Tragically, sexual abuse occurs everywhere children and adults interact. To be fair and effective, laws targeting sexual abuse must apply evenly to all sectors of society. There is no legitimate basis to discriminate against private schools, churches, businesses and charities.

The Markey bill targets private organizations only because it amends the Civil Practice Law and Rules and fails to amend the General Municipal Law and the Education Law to remove the short “notice of claim” requirement for individuals suing public institutions.

As a result, an individual abused in a private school in 1950 would get an additional year to sue. But a child abused in a public school even as recently as four months ago would be afforded no additional time to sue.  Sexual abuse is sexual abuse, no matter where it occurs. The discrimination in the Markey bill makes no sense.

3. Waiving the statute of limitations is constitutionally suspect and poor public policy.

Retroactively rescinding the civil statute of limitations casts aside a fundamental principle of American jurisprudence. It changes the rules after the fact and eliminates an essential protection against fraudulent claims – a protection that is in place in every jurisdiction in the United States.

As the New York State Bar Association has observed:

“Over time, evidence is lost or destroyed and witnesses die or become unavailable or, when they are available, their memories are less reliable. These circumstances make proof and defense of such actions extremely difficult, if not impossible, for all parties involved.” — New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Civil Practice Law and Rules Legislative Report #8, Feb. 25, 2003

4. There is a fairer, more effective approach.

Any proposal that creates two different classes of victims, depending only on where the abuse occurred, is fundamentally unjust. A child abused in a public school should have the same legal rights as a child abused in a private school.

The Catholic Conference of New York State supports A5418 (Cusick)/S3933 (Lanza), the bipartisan, comprehensive Senate and Assembly bills that protect children and protect the rights of victims without discriminating based on where sexual abuse occurred.

The Catholic Conference represents New York State’s Bishops in matters of public policy.

Cardinal Dolan, state bishops to advocate in Albany today on Parental Choice in Education Act

Date posted: June 1, 2015

At the invitation of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, several other New York State Bishops and representatives from all eight dioceses will meet with members of the New York State Senate and Assembly today, June 1, at the Executive Mansion in Albany.

The luncheon meetings continue the push for passage of the Governor’s Parental Choice in Education Act, which is the top priority of Cardinal Dolan and the Bishops and is crucial to the future of Catholic schools and other religious and independent schools in New York State. More

Statement from Cardinal Dolan on Education Tax Credit

Date posted: March 30, 2015

Dolan_0011_PUB_by_Bachrach2012Governor Cuomo and the leadership of the New York State Senate and Assembly have announced a three-way agreement on a state budget, which again does not include the Education Tax Credit, a critically needed piece of legislation for the parents and students of Catholic and other nonpublic education in the state. Following is a statement of Timothy Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the New York State Catholic Conference:

“Last week, I made the comment that there would be plenty of blame to go around if the Education Tax Credit didn’t get done in the state budget. And now, sadly, this has played out yet again. My brother bishops and I are sorely disappointed in all of our political leaders in Albany, who again assured us of their strong personal support, but again could not deliver for the children of our state. Yet we have no alternative but to turn to them again and implore them to please pass this legislation once and for all before the close of the legislative session.

“The Education Tax Credit encourages increased charitable giving to public schools and to foundations which provide scholarships to help children in need escape failing public schools. This is why the legislation is supported by so many in our minority communities, where the financial need is the greatest and the disparity in educational outcomes between public and Catholic schools are so great. Parents in these communities are desperate for a better future for their children, a future that our schools can provide.  Why their representatives are insensitive to them is a mystery.

“We have a difficult time understanding how in the world this has proven to be such difficult legislation to pass. We have a Governor who has called it a ‘matter of justice’ and included it in his executive budget. We have a Senate that passed it overwhelmingly by a vote of 44-16 earlier this year. And we have an Assembly with a solid majority of Democrats and Republicans who have said they support it. In addition, it has the support of more than 150 community, business, education, faith and labor organizations. Yet, somehow, it ended up pulled from the budget agreement, while the public schools again get a new boost to their gargantuan budget.

“So, while we have many supporters we can and do thank, there is also plenty of blame to go around. Our elected officials must cease allowing public school teachers unions intent on creating a government school monopoly to continue dictating education policy in our state. We turn again to our leaders to do the right thing, and pass the Education Tax Credit, not for any interest group, but for the children of our state. Every year that goes by is more lost opportunity for untold numbers of children. Their futures will not wait. Who will put their needs first?”

The Catholic Conference represents New York State’s Bishops in matters of public policy.