News Releases

Statement on resignation of Governor Cuomo

Date posted: August 10, 2021

Following is a statement from Dennis Poust, executive director of the NYS Catholic Conference, on the resignation of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo following an attorney general report detailing claims of sexual harassment against multiple women:

“The last several months, and in particular the past week, have been a difficult time for the people of New York State. Our prayers are with the women who came forward to share their stories. This was not easy for any of them, and their example will help other women to feel empowered to speak out and send the strong message that sexual harassment must never be tolerated, wherever and whenever it occurs.

“We pray also for our incoming governor, Kathy Hochul, as well as for her husband and children, as she undertakes her new, enormous responsibilities as the leader of our state as we continue to fight a deadly pandemic.

“Finally, we pray for all those directly impacted by Governor Cuomo’s resignation, including his family, his staff, and Mr. Cuomo himself.”

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

Letter to Congress regarding Hyde Amendment

Date posted: July 8, 2021

Following is the text of a letter from Dennis Poust, executive director of the NYS Catholic Conference, to the full New York congressional delegation, regarding taxpayer funding for abortion, dated July 7, 2021:

“On behalf of Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Catholic Bishops of New York State, I write to urge you to reject taxpayer funding of abortion, and to oppose appropriations bills that do not include the long-standing, bipartisan Hyde Amendment and related pro-life policies.

“These consensus provisions have been approved year after year by Congress and Presidents of both political parties. For almost half a century, the Hyde Amendment has protected taxpayers from having abortion imposed upon them by forcing them to pay for an act that destroys unborn human lives. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment, and has said that government may reasonably favor childbirth over abortion and allocate funding accordingly (Harris v McRae).

“Whatever one’s position on the morality or legality of abortion, we all know it is unique. Indeed, the High Court has said: ‘Abortion is inherently different from other medical procedures, because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life.’ When the federal government subsidizes certain conduct, it encourages the behavior. Through the allocation of their tax dollars, Americans should not be compelled to finance nor encourage the practice of abortion.

“In his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis declared: ‘Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this…It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life…’

“I urge you to partner with us in providing support, funding, and programs to assist pregnant women facing challenging situations, and to empower them to bear their children and raise their families with dignity.

“Again, I implore you to oppose any appropriations bill that expands taxpayer funding of abortion.

“Please know that you and your staff are in my prayers and the prayers of the Bishops as you continue your important work on behalf of our beloved country.


Dennis Poust
Executive Director”

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

Dennis Poust appointed Executive Director of the New York State Catholic Conference 

Date posted: June 7, 2021

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the New York State Catholic Conference, with the consent of the other seven diocesan Bishops of the state, has appointed Dennis Poust as Executive Director, effective immediately. Poust, a 20-year veteran of the Conference, has been serving in an interim capacity since January. He succeeds Richard E. Barnes, who resigned late last year to take a position with the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation.

“My Brother Bishops and I are grateful that Dennis has accepted the position of Executive Director on a permanent basis,” Cardinal Dolan said. “He has brought welcome continuity as the staff navigated the 2021 Legislative Session in Albany. At the same time, we Bishops have been impressed with his vision for the Conference going forward, with a focus on further engaging the Catholic people of our state toward faithful citizenship.” More

Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools in the American Rescue Plan

Date posted: April 26, 2021

Following are public comments submitted to the United States Department of Education by Dennis Poust, interim executive director of the NYS Catholic Conference, regarding emergency assistance to non-public schools in the American Rescue Plan Act:

The New York State Catholic Conference (NYSCC) is very grateful to the President and Congress for the two rounds of Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS). Moreover, we applaud the approach of administering the program centrally through State Education Agencies (SEAs) as opposed to the more burdensome and often frustrating approach of having non-public schools work with numerous Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to secure their “equitable share” of services. Administering federal funding for non-public schools through SEAs eliminates much of the administrative burdens that plague public and non-public school administrators alike – and this approach should serve as a model when the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is being considered.


Statement on Recreational Marijuana Legalization

Date posted: April 7, 2021

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

“The passage of legislation to legalize possession and consumption of marijuana for recreational use in New York State is terrible policy that sends a message to children that marijuana is harmless fun endorsed by the state. The reality is quite different. More

Statement on the Signing of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act

Date posted: April 1, 2021

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

Date posted: March 18, 2021

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

Date posted: February 16, 2021

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

Date posted: January 29, 2021

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

Date posted: November 30, 2020

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