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NYS Bishops Statement on Passage of Child Victims Act

We pray that the passage of the Child Victims Act brings some measure of healing to all survivors by offering them a path of recourse and reconciliation. The legislation now recognizes that child sexual abuse is an evil not just limited to one institution, but a tragic societal ill that must be addressed in every place where it exists.

Sadly, we in the Church know all too well the devastating toll of abuse on survivors, their families, and the extended community. Every Catholic diocese in New York has taken important steps to support survivors of child sexual abuse, including the implementation of reconciliation and compensation programs. We are proud that these pioneering programs have not only helped well more than a thousand survivors of clergy abuse in New York, but have also become a model for how to help survivors in other states and in other institutions. More

Bishops Statement on Upcoming Election

A statement from the Catholic Bishops of New York State on the need for Catholics to inform their conscience on the issues and vote in the upcoming election November 2.

2009 NYS Bishops Statement on Same Sex Marriage

A statement by the Catholic Bishops of New York State on a legislative proposal to fundamentally change the institution of marriage.

NYS Bishops Statement on Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Dear People of God,

Ours is a world in which, for several hundred years, we have all benefited from the extraordinary achievements of scientific research, technological skill and human creative genius. Yet neither in the past nor today have men and women ever been free to disregard the questions of the meaning of human life and the defense and protection of human dignity that are the foundation of all human rights and the basis of civil society. The past has taught with too many examples that human ingenuity can be used for destructive purposes if not harnessed to a proper vision of the human person in accordance with natural law, aided by the insights of religious faith.

NYS Bishops Statement on Religious Liberty Litigation

Confronted with no other means of defending our religious freedom against a governmental assault, plaintiffs representing a broad array of Catholic and Protestant entities today have taken the necessary step of initiating legal action against the State of New York.

New York State Bishops Statement on Welfare Reform

A rapidly approaching milestone of federal welfare reform threatens the well being of thousands of New Yorkers on public assistance. This is a matter of grave concern for the Catholic Bishops of New York State, and we stress that immediate action is required, both for the people immediately affected and for all who suffer in poverty.

As part of 1996 legislation overhauling the nation’s welfare system, a lifetime limit of 60 months for receiving cash assistance was instituted. For that reason, on December 1 of this year, federal benefits for thousands of recipients will end forever. Many of those about to be cut-off from assistance are the most vulnerable members of an already vulnerable population.

In a spirit of justice and charity, we call on our political leaders to take the necessary steps to ensure that this population of New Yorkers receive the support they need to live in dignity as human beings made in the image and likeness of Almighty God.
At the same time, the state and federal government must do more to reduce and ultimately eliminate the root causes of poverty that prevent many of our brothers and sisters from achieving self-sufficiency and sharing in the American Dream. In the last five years, the documented welfare caseload in New York State has dropped 55 percent, with nearly 1 million fewer families on public assistance than in 1995. While at first blush this would appear to mean that reform has been successful, there is precious little data to back up that claim. In fact, evidence suggests that, while cases have been closed like never before, poverty continues to rise. We know, for instance, that in this same five-year period, our Catholic Charities agencies have seen a steady increase in demand for emergency services, including food, shelter and cash assistance.

Clearly, while thousands of New Yorkers have left welfare, in many cases they often struggle to make ends meet in low-wage jobs that leave them in poverty. The U.S. Bishops always have supported true welfare reform with policies that assist those who are able to work to acquire the skills necessary to move into meaningful jobs, while maintaining a program of economic assistance for those who will never be economically self-sufficient.
Therefore, with the imminent five-year cut-off looming for thousands of recipients, the Bishops of New York State respectfully request that the Legislature and Governor address the following critical issues:

Ensure a seamless transition. When New York implemented welfare reform, the Legislature intended to smoothly transition individuals from federally funded Family Assistance to a state-funded Safety Net Assistance program that does not provide cash benefits. However, earlier this year, the New York State Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance (OTDA) issued regulations requiring that those who have exhausted Family Assistance benefits will have to re-apply for Safety Net Assistance. But these delays in processing could expose families to increased hunger or loss of housing and shift onto not-for-profit providers, such as Catholic Charities and parish outreach centers, the need to meet emergency services.

Invest TANF funds responsibly. New York receives $2.4 billion annually from the federal government under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant, based on the state’s 1995 welfare caseload. These funds are intended to provide cash assistance to families eligible for Family Assistance, as well as non-cash services for the working poor.

Declines in the welfare caseload have generated surplus funds, allowing New York to finance an expansion in the Earned Income Tax Credit, expanded child care subsidies, and create the Temporary Opportunities Program to deliver educational and job services to families up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line. These are all worthy and necessary endeavors. However, a large surplus remains, and the state would be wise to consider other poverty-fighting programs as well. For instance, the basic grant to those on Family Assistance has not been increased since 1990, severely eroding the buying power and financial security of low-income families. Nor have those on Family Assistance received appropriate education and training to succeed in a changing job market. The state must target TANF spending to increase the economic and social security of at-risk families and children in New York State.

Expand Definition of Allowable Activities. Federal welfare reform required that Family Assistance recipients must work or be placed in work-related activities, although many educational activities were excluded. New York State is allowed to exempt 20 percent of the Family Assistance caseload from the five-year time limit. Recipients are eligible for exemption if they are not able to achieve self-sufficiency for certain reasons. A majority of them have had poor education, combined with multiple disabilities, that made it difficult for local social service districts to place them in work activities. New York should ensure that there is a seamless exemption from time limits for the maximum 20 percent of FA recipients. The State could reduce the need for exemptions by modifying allowable activities, such as providing greater access to education programs that prepare FA recipients for self-sufficiency.

Understand the Effects of Welfare Reform. The dramatic five-year reduction in the welfare caseload has been characterized as an indicator of “successful” welfare reform. We fear that this has masked a failure to address the intractable problems of poverty. Whereas New York has focused on case reductions, there has not been a comprehensive evaluation of welfare reform, including any efforts to determine whether those who have left welfare are economically secure. Catholic agencies report that they are now more likely to provide food, clothing and shelter assistance to those who have left welfare, rather than those who remain on Family Assistance. This suggests that for many families leaving welfare has actually served to exacerbate their problems.

As New York marks the five-year anniversary of welfare reform, those who remain on assistance would benefit from intensive case management services. Rather than focusing on finger-imaging and drug screening (both of which seem to associate poverty with criminal behavior), local social service districts should conduct an assessment that determines a family’s strengths and needs. Then, supportive services could be delivered in an efficient manner, preparing those who require new skills or supports to enter the work force. At the same time, those who will never be able to work independently would receive the economic assistance that allow them to live an independent life with dignity.

Conclusion. As the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, the United States faces the creation of two, unequal societies, one rich and one poor. Our considerations of assistance and compassion are further affected by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Along with the resulting emotional and financial tolls and the loss of property, we must remember that those who are poor and vulnerable are also in need of our continued assistance and compassion. With the looming December 1 cut-off, our leaders do not have the luxury of waiting to address these critical issues.

The Bishops of New York State support policies that help those who are capable of work to move off welfare. However, we believe that the State has not yet conquered the biggest of challenge welfare reform: to end poverty as we know it. As the Congress prepares to reauthorize TANF in 2002, we will work to ensure that everyone who works full time can earn enough to raise a family. The challenges that face us might be daunting, but we can do no less than to respond to the economic needs of the poor and vulnerable among us.

New York State Bishops Statement on mandates for immoral services

We, the Catholic Bishops of New York State, issue jointly this statement in support of the preservation of religious conscience protection in any legislation mandating health insurance coverage for contraception or morally objectionable infertility procedures.

Our nation was founded upon the principle that those choosing to live by religious faith do so free from the unwarranted intrusion of government. We can think of no governmental action at this time so unwarranted or intrusive as the requirement that religiously-affiliated employers or insurers pay for or provide coverage for procedures which violate the tenets of their religious faith.

The same faith which motivates us to care for the sick and the dying, to educate children, and to defend the poor and forgotten is also the basis for our moral teachings. A law which would compel us to do what we sincerely believe is morally wrong violates our free exercise of religion and undermines all that we do in the name of faith.

The ability of religion to function freely, as protected by the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of New York, rests now on the shoulders of public officials willing to rise to the defense of the common good. We urge our elected officials to reject the arguments of those who would discriminate against faith and religious practice in our culture and to hold firm to those principles upon which this nation was founded.

These principles are fundamental to our society, a bedrock for our democracy.

New York State Bishops Statement on Hate Crimes Legislation

In New York State and throughout our nation, the concern of religious, community and elected leaders about bias-related violence has prompted legislative initiatives designed to increase criminal penalties for such offenses.

To date, we have not taken a public policy position on the merits of specific legislation designed to address such crimes. In response to requests, we have now examined our position regarding various proposals currently before our State Legislature.

After a deliberate and careful analysis, it is our judgment, for the reasons stated below, that we are unable to support these proposals, but we remain open to consideration of any further legislative proposals. Such position, however, should not be misconstrued either to imply that we do not appreciate the intent of this legislation or that we are not concerned about the form of these bills. We are committed to continue to participate in the process and dialogue and to apply the Church’s teachings with compassion to each piece of legislation as proposed.

As Catholics, we share with the proponents of anti-hate legislation a deep concern over deplorable attacks on individuals based on their perceived membership in a particular group or class. Indeed, at various times in our 2000 years as a Church, it has been Catholics who have been and are now the targets of such violence. We empathize fully with all those who find themselves victimized by violent, bias-motivated crimes. We stress that bias-motivated violence against all persons, whether based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, age, national origin or sexual orientation, in speech or in action, is reprehensible and deserves condemnation from all whenever it occurs.

Clearly, the stated intent of the legislation – reducing bias related crime and protecting potential victims – is laudable and is consistent with the central teachings of the Church, in upholding the sanctity of all human life, the equality and dignity of each human being and the fundamental right of each human being to enjoy respect, peace, justice and fairness.

At the same time, however, we have serious policy concerns that versions of the proposed legislation currently under consideration, in an attempt to achieve a well-intended goal which we find consistent with the positions of the New York State Catholic Conference, and the best interest of society in general, might be used to advance, in part, a policy agenda that is at the same time inconsistent with those positions and society’s best interest.
Instructive is the position that we have expressed with respect to the Rockefeller Drug Laws. We have criticized those portions of that legislation which:

  • Fail to provide alternatives to incarceration
  • Through mandatory sentencing provisions remove judicial discretion in sentencing on a case by case basis
  • Fail to distinguish in terms of punishment between major drug kingpins and low-level non-violent offenders.

We are concerned that the form of the current legislative anti-bias proposals, by the imposition of increased criminality and/or mandatory sentencing, contains the same or similar pitfalls contained in the Rockefeller Drug Laws in that these proposals:

  •  Fail to provide alternatives to incarceration
  • Remove judicial discretion in sentencing and provide for additional punishment through increased levels of criminality and consecutive sentencing
  • Fail to distinguish between an isolated offense and deep-seated bias
  • Create a new level of criminality based on non-specific standards and prosecutorial discretion with the potential for disparate application.

We are also not convinced that current anti-bias proposals would be effective in deterring bias-crimes. There are already federal and state laws to punish such crimes. We suggest that primary intervention through education and rehabilitation is the best method of addressing the ignorance and deep-seated prejudices that underlie such actions, rather than further criminalization of the population.

We are deeply sensitive to the suffering that crime, particularly bias-related crime, inflicts on victims and their families, and to the long-term damage it causes to the social fabric. Particularly troubling is the high incidence of crime among young people, which raises disturbing questions about current society and ominous concerns about the future. We must commit ourselves ever more to working as a society to enhance respect for the rights of all, and to identify and address the root causes of crime. Through every aspect of our pastoral ministry and through our preaching of the Word of God, we strive to promote love, respect and tolerance for every human being as created in the image of God.

We conclude, therefore, that given all of the above concerns, we are unable to support any of the various forms of the proposed legislation, but we remain open to consideration of any further legislative proposals.

—Roman Catholic Bishops of New York State

A statement on the Dobbs decision by the Catholic Bishops of New York State

En español, aqui

‘We Give Thanks to God’

We give thanks to God for today’s decision of the United States Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This just decision will save countless innocent children simply waiting to be born.

On this historic day, our gratitude extends to the millions of heroic Americans who have worked tirelessly toward this outcome for nearly a half-century. Women and men, children and adults, believers and non-believers, people of every culture and background have advocated for life. They have been a charitable and compelling voice for the voiceless, and today, their voice has been heard.

As Catholics, we have prayed and fasted, held vigils, offered Masses, and peacefully witnessed in these last five decades. We have joined others in educating schoolchildren, opening pregnancy care centers, walking with mothers, offering post-abortion counseling, and marching, year after year, to the United States Supreme Court to witness for life. Today, our voice has been heard.

With the entire pro-life community, we are overjoyed with this outcome of the Court. However, we acknowledge the wide range of emotions associated with this decision. We call on all Catholics and everyone who supports the right to life for unborn children to be charitable, even as we celebrate an important historical moment and an answer to a prayer.

We must remember that this is a judicial victory, not a cultural one. The culture remains deeply divided on the issue, which will be evidenced by the patchwork of state statutes pertaining to abortion across the country. To change the culture and build a culture of life, we need to enact family-friendly policies that welcome children, support mothers, cherish families and empower them to thrive. We outlined our vision for a pro-life New York in our recent statement, available here, and we rededicate ourselves to helping every expectant mother to carry her baby to term.

Building a culture of life is not solely the responsibility of the government or those heroic individuals working on the front lines, in crisis pregnancy centers and other ministries. All of us need to respect the dignity and sanctity of human life in everything we do: in how we treat our children, spouses and parents; in the way we behave in our place of work; in sum, how we live Jesus’ two great commandments to love God and love our neighbor.

Love, charity and reverence for human life from the moment of conception through natural death – these will build and sustain a culture of life.

Millions of Americans have worked tirelessly for almost 50 years towards this outcome. We thank them with every fiber of our being. Their vital work continues, and we commit ourselves to it.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan

Archbishop of New York

Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger

Bishop of Albany

Most Rev. Robert J. Brennan

Bishop of Brooklyn

Most Rev. Michael W. Fisher

Bishop of Buffalo

Most Rev. Terry R. LaValley

Bishop of Ogdensburg

Most Rev. Salvatore R. Matano

Bishop of Rochester

Most Rev. John O. Barres

Bishop of Rockville Centre

Most Rev. Douglas J. Lucia

Bishop of Syracuse

And the Auxiliary and Emeritus Bishops of NYS

New York State Bishops Release Major New Statement on Abortion

The Catholic Bishops of New York State have released a major new statement on abortion as they anticipate the looming Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, and “the gathering societal unrest over the issue of abortion.” (The full statement is available HERE and in a printable PDF suitable for parish distribution is HERE.)

In the statement titled, “Toward a Pro-Life Future in the Empire State,” the Bishops acknowledge that, regardless of what the Court decides in Dobbs, “abortion in New York would continue unfettered.” They say that Catholics must respond “in charity and with sensitivity, but with clarity” to those for whom the prospect of an overturning of Roe v. Wade has led to “fear and anxiety,” and in particular to women facing sometimes overwhelming challenges of unplanned pregnancies.

The Bishops address head-on the false notion that the Church is more concerned with the baby in the womb than with the mother and child once he or she is born, and announce a renewed pastoral effort, challenging every Catholic entity in the state to join them:

“As far back as the 1980s, the late John Cardinal O’Connor, a giant of the pro-life movement, made a pledge that we reaffirm today: Any woman – regardless of age, religious belief or affiliation, marital status or immigration status – who is pregnant and in need, can come to the Catholic Church and we will give you the services and supports you need to carry your baby to term, regardless of your ability to pay. Furthermore, we will not abandon you and your baby after delivery, but, rather, we will see to it that you have the resources that you and your child both need and deserve. No one will be turned away from life-affirming care. If you have had an abortion that you regret, whether recently or in the distant past, please come to us as well, so that we may offer you services to help you to heal.

“We ask every Catholic parish, every Catholic Charities program, every Catholic health facility, every Catholic school, every Catholic college and university, and every religious community in our state to proactively engage with us in this pastoral effort.

To that end, the Bishops have launched a new pregnancy resources page, Help for Moms, at, where women can find services available to them. The page will be continually updated with new resources.

Finally, the Bishops call on elected officials to work toward a New York that is more supportive of women in crisis pregnancies, and to gear public policies away from continually seeking to increase abortions and toward helping those “who might well make a different choice, if only they were aware of and had other options. The Bishops then present a list of 12 aspirational statements of what such a New York might look like. Over the coming days, the New York State Catholic Conferences social media platforms will highlight each of the aspirational statements, with the hashtags #WeEnvision and #HelpForMoms.

Let us work toward making New York a state where even if abortion is not illegal, it will one day be unthinkable., the Bishops conclude.

The statement is signed by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York, and Bishops Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, Robert J. Brennan of Brooklyn, Michael W. Fisher of Buffalo, Terry R. LaValley of Ogdensburg, Salvatore R. Matano of Rochester, John O. Barres of Rockville Centre, and Douglas J. Lucia of Syracuse, on behalf of all of the states bishops, including auxiliary and emeritus bishops.