News Release Archive

Statement on the Signing of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act

Following is a statement by Dennis Poust, interim executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, on the signing of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act:

“I applaud Governor Cuomo for signing the HALT Solitary Confinement Act into law. Criminal Justice reform organizations, including the Catholic Conference, have fought for years for fundamental reform and alternatives to long-term incarceration. With this law, that goal has finally been achieved. More

Statement on passage of HALT Solitary Confinement Act

Following is a statement by Dennis Poust, interim executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference:

“Today is a historic day in New York, with the passage of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act in the state Senate, two days after it passed in the state Assembly.

“Simply put, long-term solitary confinement is torture. The deprivation, lack of normal human interaction, and extreme idleness fundamentally alter the brain and can cause immense psychological suffering, self-harm, and often lead to suicide. Issues with which people enter segregated confinement — mental illness, addiction, anger, despair — are only exacerbated by extreme isolation. Additionally, a disproportionate number of those in solitary confinement are people of color.


Statement on start of legalized commercial surrogacy in NYS

Pregnant womanOn April 3, 2020, as the nation was in the early grips of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state was in complete lockdown, the New York State legislature passed its state budget for FY 2021. Buried in that 400-page document, passed at 3 a.m., was language legalizing commercial gestational surrogacy in the state. The dead-of-night move came after years of opposition to legalization by some feminist groups and the Catholic Conference because it exploits women, reducing their bodies to raw materials for the wealthy to create biological offspring, and exploits the children born of such arrangements, who are treated as commodities to be bought and sold.

Today, the legislation took effect legalizing these commercial arrangements, which in recent years have been banned in the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, much of Asia, and several countries in South America, precisely because the practice is exploitive and leads to trafficking of women and children.


Catholic Conference Testifies at Education Joint Budget Hearing

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis continues to wreak financial havoc on Catholic schools across the state, according James D. Cultrara, director for education of the NYS Catholic Conference and executive secretary of the NYS Council of Catholic School Superintendents, in testimony before a joint legislative hearing on the state Elementary and Secondary Education Budget on January 28.

Cultrara submitted written testimony and also testified live in the virtual Zoom legislative hearing. He noted that the pandemic was a major factor in the closing of more than 30 Catholic schools across the state last June.

“The financial hardship did not end with the close of the last school year,” Cultrara said in the written testimony. “Re-registrations for the fall were dramatically lower, leaving administrators unsure of whether they could survive the next school year. As they prepared to reopen their schools for in-person instruction – under the strict health and educational requirements of the state – they were forced to bear the unanticipated costs of hiring additional nurses and other staff, installing physical barriers and signage, purchasing personal protective equipment, acquiring cleaning supplies, arranging for ongoing sanitizing throughout and between each day, installing or modifying air purification equipment, purchasing and training for additional technology related to remote learning, collecting and reporting data to the Department of Health on a daily basis – the list goes on and on.”


Poust appointed interim executive director as Barnes accepts Cabrini Foundation post

Richard E. Barnes, who has served with the New York State Catholic Conference for nearly 32 years, the last 19 as executive director, has resigned after accepting a position as director of community relations and regional senior advisor for the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, a $3.2 billion philanthropic foundation focused on improving the well-being of


Dennis Poust

vulnerable New Yorkers, bolstering health outcomes of diverse communities, and eliminating barriers to care.

Dennis Poust, who has served as director of communications for the Conference for the last 20 years, has been appointed interim executive director by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the Conference. The transition becomes effective January 1.

“We have been so blessed for so many years to have Rick Barnes at the helm of the state Catholic Conference,” Cardinal Dolan said. “His sharp legal mind, political instincts, and commitment

to social justice have made him an invaluable asset to the Bishops and to the entire Church in New York State. I’m pleased that Rick will continue to be in service to those in need through his important work at the Cabrini Foundation.”

Barnes, who received his bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University (1983) and juris doctor degree from Albany Law School (1986) came to the Conference in 1989 as legislative counsel before being named executive director in 2001. He is a past president of the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors. More

Catholic Conference statement on SCOTUS decision on church restrictions

Following is a statement by Dennis Poust, director of communications for the NYS Catholic Conference, regarding last night’s granting of an emergency writ of injunction by the Supreme Court of the United States in favor of a challenge by the Diocese of Brooklyn and others over severe attendance restrictions instituted by New York State on houses of worship:

“Last night’s decision by the Supreme Court is an important one for religious liberty. While we believe, and the Court agreed, that the “hot zone” restrictions on religious gatherings were unduly harsh, our churches have been otherwise eager partners with the state in protecting the health of our parishioners, clergy, staff, and surrounding communities during this devastating pandemic. That will continue, as protecting the vulnerable is a pro-life principle. We are proud of the success we have had in keeping our people safe.

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

Catholic Advocacy in the Palm of Your Hand

Catholic New Yorkers now have the tools to make their voices heard to their elected officials right in the palm of their hand. The Catholic Action Network (CAN) can now text critical alerts directly to users’ smartphones, with links to quickly send messages to their elected officials on urgent issues of the day. To sign up, just text the word CAN to 50457. You’ll immediately receive a one-time link to complete your registration, which is free.

“CAN is a critical tool for everyday Catholics to quickly contact their legislators on all of the major issues of the day, whether it be abortion or assisted suicide, religious liberty, threats to the family, fair funding for Catholic schools, support for the poor and vulnerable, or protection of our environment,” said Dennis Poust, director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference, which operates the network. “And now it’s never been easier to do so quickly and efficiently.” More

Statement on threat of Covid-19-related school closures in ‘hot zones’

Following is a statement of the New York State Catholic Conference on behalf of the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn:

Public officials have indicated that they may pursue the closure of all public and private schools in several COVID-19 “hot zones” in New York City and the Hudson Valley. We strongly urge that any action taken addresses actual problem schools where there is a sustained high rate of infection, rather than a broad-brush approach that penalizes all schools, children, and families needlessly.

The Catholic schools throughout our state and, particular in the densely populated New York City Metropolitan Area, have rightly been held up as a model for safety in these uncertain times. Our Catholic schools opened for full-time, in-person learning weeks before the New York City public schools and have had no significant COVID-19 outbreaks to date. More

Statement on cuts to programs serving poor & vulnerable

Catholic Charities social worker comforts clientWith the Covid-19 crisis that has sickened and killed many thousands of New Yorkers and continues to threaten us, Governor Cuomo faces an unenviable reality. While he must continue efforts to keep New Yorkers safe, at the same time it falls upon him to address a historic budget shortfall caused by the shutdown of the state’s economy and the absence of federal aid to state and local governments.

As the governor considers the steps needed to restore our state to fiscal stability, the New York State Bishops offer prayers for wisdom, as well as a reminder that the state must never balance its budget on the backs of the poor and vulnerable.

Statement on DACA decision

Following is a statement of the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the Catholic Bishops of New York State in public policy matters:

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Administration’s attempt to immediately end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA is a widely supported and hugely successful program that has provided security and stability to thousands of law-abiding, hard-working young immigrants, many of whom have known no other home but the United States. We welcome this decision by the Court and urge the President and Congress to work together to make DACA protections permanent.