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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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


Statement from the Catholic Bishops of NYS on Abortion Expansion

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En Español

Words are insufficient to describe the profound sadness we feel at the contemplated passage of New York State’s new proposed abortion policy. We mourn the unborn infants who will lose their lives, and the many mothers and fathers who will suffer remorse and heartbreak as a result.

The so-called “Reproductive Health Act” will expand our state’s already radically permissive law, by empowering more health practitioners to provide abortion and removing all state restrictions on late-term procedures. With an abortion rate that is already double the national average, New York law is moving in the wrong direction.

We renew our pledge to offer the resources and services of our charitable agencies and health services to any woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, to support her in bearing her infant, raising her family or placing her child for adoption. There are life-affirming choices available, and we aim to make them more widely known and accessible.

Our Governor and legislative leaders hail this new abortion law as progress. This is not progress. Progress will be achieved when our laws and our culture once again value and respect each unrepeatable gift of human life, from the first moment of creation to natural death. Would that not make us truly the most enlightened and progressive state in the nation?

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York

Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger
Bishop of Albany

Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio
Bishop of Brooklyn

Most Rev. Richard J. Malone
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. Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse

And the Auxiliary and Retired Bishops of New York State

En Español

Mensaje de los obispos católicos de Nueva York

Las palabras no son suficientes para describir la profunda tristeza que sentimos ante la aprobación contemplada de la nueva política propuesta para los abortos en el Estado de Nueva York. Estamos de luto por los infantes aún por nacer que perderán sus vidas, y por las muchas madres y padres quienes sufrirán el remordimiento, y dolor como resultado.

La llamada “Acta de Salud Reproductiva” expandirá la ya radicalmente permisiva ley en nuestro estado, empoderando a más proveedores de cuidado de salud a proporcionar abortos y removiendo todas las restricciones estatales a los procedimientos a largo plazo. Con un índice de abortos que ya es el doble del promedio nacional, la ley en Nueva York se está moviendo en la dirección incorrecta.

Reanudamos nuestro compromiso con proveer los recursos y servicios de nuestras agencias de servicios caritativos y de salud, a cualquier mujer que experimente un embarazo no planificado, para apoyarla hasta dar a luz a su bebé, criar a su familia o ubicar al infante en adopción. Existen opciones de afirmación de vida, y procuramos hacerlas más accessibles y conocidas. Nuestro gobernador y los líderes legislativos elogian esta nueva ley de abortos como progreso. Esto no es progreso. El progreso se logrará cuando nuestras leyes y nuestra cultura una vez más valoren y respeten cada obsequio irrepetible de vida humana, desde el primer momento de la creación hasta la muerte natural. ¿No nos haría eso verdaderamente el estado más progresista en la nación?

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Arzobispo de New York

Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger
Obispo de Albany

Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio
Obispo de Brooklyn

Most Rev. Richard J. Malone
Obispo de Buffalo

Most Rev. Terry R. LaValley
Obispo de Ogdensburg

Most Rev. Salvatore R. Matano
Obispo de Rochester

Most Rev. John O. Barres
Obispo de Rockville Centre

Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Obispo de Syracuse

Y los obispos auxiliares y retirados del Estado de Nueva York


Statement on Political Responsibility by the Catholic Bishops of New York State

Flag cathedralFor guidelines on political activity, see “Pastors, Parishes, and Political Responsibility.”

The good of a democratic republic like ours depends on the participation of its citizens. This may seem obvious but it needs to be insisted upon in today’s American society. The most fundamental action of a good citizen is to vote. All other activities in the political sphere depend on the exercise of this most fundamental right – which is equally a solemn responsibility. Regrettably, in our country today an alarming percentage of citizens do not exercise this right. In New York State, on average over the past four years, only 40 percent of eligible voters carried out their civic duty.

As the Catholic Bishops of New York State, we urge every eligible adult Catholic, without exception, to be sure that he or she is registered to vote and that all exercise their solemn responsibility of voting in this year’s elections.

If you are not registered to vote, or not sure if you are registered, please go to www.elections.ny.gov or call 1-800-FOR-VOTE. You may also go to our own New York State Catholic Conference website at www.nyscatholic.org and select “Register to Vote.”

We thank you for doing that. Now we want to invite you to prepare to vote by becoming familiar with both the candidates and the issues. Just voting for a name you recognize or a party you belong to does not fulfill your responsibility to build up a good society where human dignity, personal freedom, care for one another – especially the vulnerable – and the common good prevail as values which should be cherished in our democracy.

Sadly, determining who to vote for is not always easy. Pressure groups, especially the loudest ones, seek to shout down anyone who disagrees with them. Calm and thoughtful responses to issues are often drowned out. That makes the challenge to choose good candidates and support good programs even more difficult than in the past. But it makes these decisions even more important. We do have resources to help you. More