News Releases

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.”

Poust, who received a bachelor’s degree in politics from New York University in 1988, came to the Conference as Director of Communications in 2001 after having lived and worked in Austin, Texas, the previous six years. Born and raised in the Bronx, Poust began his career as a reporter and editor at Catholic New York, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York, and also contributed regularly to several national Catholic publications.

“I am humbled by this appointment, and I’m so grateful to Cardinal Dolan and the Bishops for their confidence in me,” Poust said. “I’m also tremendously grateful to our incredibly talented and dedicated Conference staff. They have been instrumental in the smoothness of this transition and our successes. I have been very fortunate for nearly two decades to serve under my friend Rick Barnes, whose example I hope to emulate and whose counsel I will continue to value.”

Poust is married to Mary DeTurris Poust, a Catholic spiritual writer and the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Albany. They live in Delmar, N.Y., and have three children, Noah, Olivia and Chiara.

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


Human Composting Slider

Date posted: May 21, 2021

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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

Poust

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.

Barnes

Richard E. Barnes

“It has been a privilege for me every day of the last 32 years to serve first as legislative counsel and then as executive director of the Catholic Conference,” Barnes said. “I’m grateful to the Bishops for the opportunity they have afforded me, and I am excited about my next phase and the chance to advance Mother Cabrini’s vision of the Gospel, in service to the poor and vulnerable.”

Barnes will serve as one of two community relations directors, with Barnes focusing on outreach to New Yorkers north of the Hudson Valley. With his three decades of experience and unique understanding of challenges facing these regions, he will also serve as a regional senior advisor to the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation executive staff.

 

Barnes and his wife, Sheila, live in Delmar and are the parents of two children.

Poust, who received a bachelor’s degree in politics from New York University in 1988, came to the Conference in 2001 after having lived the previous six years in Austin, Texas. Born and raised in the Bronx, he began his career as a reporter and editor at Catholic New York, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York, and also contributed regularly to several national Catholic publications.

“As the long-time public voice of the Bishops on public policy matters, Dennis has demonstrated an intimate knowledge of the many important issues facing our Church and state, and an expertise in communicating – to the Catholic faithful, to the media and to public officials,” Cardinal Dolan said. “I have every confidence the Conference will be in good hands going forward.”

Poust noted: “I’m so grateful for the trust that Cardinal Dolan and the Bishops have placed in me. My life’s work has been to advocate for the teachings and positions of the Catholic faith in the public square, and this opportunity to lead the Conference as interim executive director is the culmination of that.”

He and his wife, Mary, live in Delmar, and have three children.

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


Catholic Conference statement on SCOTUS decision on church restrictions

Date posted: November 26, 2020

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.