The Maryland General Assembly opened today for an unusual session that will be mostly virtual for the first time in the Assembly's 442-year history. Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, offers a brief message and prayer for our legislators.
The two Catholic archbishops in Maryland are calling for prayers following protests and violence at the U.S. Capitol today.
Most Reverend William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore, is chairman of the Maryland Catholic Conference Board of Governors:
“Our hearts are heavy as we witness the shocking and unlawful protests occurring in our nation’s capital. We fervently pray for peace and for God’s protection over our country, our lawmakers, and all those in harm’s way this terrible day. May peace-loving Americans of good will throughout the United States come together to engender peace, reconciliation and healing in our wounded and broken nation, which remains and must always be one, under God."
Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, is a member of the Board of Governors; the archdiocese includes the District of Columbia as well as five Maryland counties:
“Our United States Capitol is sacred ground and a place where people over the past centuries have rightly demonstrated, representing a wide variety of opinions. We Americans should honor the place where our nation’s laws and policies are debated and decided. We should feel violated when the legacy of freedom enshrined in that building is disrespected and desecrated.
“I pray for safety – of our elected officials, staffers, workers, protesters, law enforcement personnel, and neighbors to the United States Capitol. There are injuries and tremendous harm, including reports about the loss of life. Together, we must intentionally pause and pray for peace in this critical moment. The divisive tone that has recently so dominated our national conversations must change. Those who resort to inflammatory rhetoric must accept some responsibility for inciting the increasing violence in our nation.
“We are called to be a people of democratic values that respect the opinions of others, even when we disagree with them. As people of faith seeking to bring our Lord into this world by how we live, we must acknowledge the human dignity of those with whom we disagree and seek to work with them to ensure the common good for all.”
The Maryland Catholic Conference today thanked Senator Mike Miller, who announced his retirement, for his advocacy on behalf of the underserved in Maryland:
Throughout his 50-year legislative career, Senator Mike Miller has been an unwavering partner in advocating for and advancing programs to support and lift up low-income families and children in Maryland.
He continues to be a strong advocate for all Maryland students, whether they attend public or Catholic schools.
Timothy Maloney, member of the Maryland Catholic Conference Administrative Board and former state delegate, notes, “For half a century, Mike Miller provided unequaled service to the people of Maryland, always motivated by his faith and love of our state. On countless occasions, his leadership and counsel made all the difference for the work of the Maryland Catholic Conference. We celebrate his legacy and our thoughts are with him and his family during this holiest of seasons.”
The Catholic bishops of Maryland and Maryland Catholic Conference staff have been praying for Senator Mike Miller throughout his illness. Our prayers for him and his family continue. May God be with them always.
The eight Catholic bishops serving Maryland, including Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, Washington Archbishop Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory, and Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly, are urging President Donald Trump to stop the planned federal execution of Dustin Higgs, scheduled for Jan. 15, 2021. The bishops today also wrote to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan seeking his support in fighting this execution.
In their letter to President Trump, the bishops wrote, “Alternative sentences, such as life without parole, are punishments through which society can be kept safe. The death penalty does not create a path to justice. Rather, it contributes to the growing disrespect for human life and perpetuates a cycle of violence in our society.”
They also quoted Pope Francis: “Human justice is imperfect, and the failure to recognize its fallibility can transform it into a source of injustice." Two years ago, Pope Francis updated the Catholic Catechism to affirm that the use of the death penalty is “inadmissible.”
In their letter to Governor Hogan, the bishops wrote that they are proud of Maryland’s leadership in ending the death penalty and noted, “While we recognize that your powers as Governor of Maryland do not extend to federal death penalty cases, we urge you to intervene with the Trump Administration to ask that this execution be stopped.”
They also recognized the pain of victims and survivors: “We grieve for the victims of violent crime and murder. We recognize the terrible suffering of their families and pray that God will provide them peace and healing.”
Dustin Higgs was convicted of ordering the 1996 murders of Tamika Black, Tanji Jackson, and Mishann Chinn in Prince George’s County. He is in prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
The letters’ signatories include Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori; Washington Archbishop, Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory; and Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly; two Washington auxiliary bishops: Bishop Roy E. Campbell and Bishop Mario Dorsonville; and three additional bishops from Baltimore: Auxiliary Bishop Adam J. Parker; Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Denis J. Madden; and Auxiliary Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, CSsR.
About the Maryland Catholic Conference (@mdcatholic)
The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three Maryland (arch)dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archdiocese of Washington and Diocese of Wilmington. Maryland is home to more than one million diverse Catholics.
Additional resource: United States Bishop Chairmen Renew Call to Stop Executions
“Solidarity finds concrete expression in service, which can take a variety of forms in an effort to care for others. And service in great part means ‘caring for vulnerability, for the vulnerable members of our families, our society, our people.’”
- Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, 115
December 12, 2020
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
As the current pandemic continues to devastate families and communities, we must, as people of faith, continue to take necessary steps to protect the health and life of our families and communities, even when it is difficult or uncomfortable.
We are grateful to the clergy, religious and lay people in our parishes, schools, social service programs and health care facilities who have been providing ministry under very difficult circumstances, as well as the parishioners and parents who have made significant sacrifices to help protect public health.
We look with hope toward recent developments to produce effective and life-saving vaccines. We are heartened by the quick progress to date and look forward to working with federal, state and local government leaders to promote widespread vaccination against COVID-19 in the interests of protecting public health and human life.
In response to some questions about the source of the vaccines, we wish to provide some clarity regarding the ethical and moral status of COVID-19 vaccines. As a recent communication from the chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pro-life and doctrine committees notes:
“Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine involved the use of cell lines that originated in fetal tissue taken from the body of an aborted baby at any level of design, development, or production.”
At the same time, they add, “They are not completely free from any connection to abortion, however, as both Pfizer and Moderna made use of a tainted cell line for one of the confirmatory lab tests of their products. There is thus a connection, but it is relatively remote.”
Over a number of years, the Holy See has addressed the use of tainted vaccines and, as the chairmen write, “at the level of the recipient, it is morally permissible to accept vaccination when there are no alternatives and there is a serious risk to health.”
Therefore, a Catholic can in good conscience receive these COVID-19 vaccines. Moreover, given the grave risk of harm to others, we strongly encourage the faithful to receive a vaccine against COVID, unless medically indicated otherwise. It is vitally important that the most vulnerable among us and those who are from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID receive the vaccine swiftly. It also is imperative that pharmaceutical companies be urged to develop vaccines that fully respect the dignity of the human person at all stages.
This has been a difficult year. We mourn with all those who have lost loved ones. We pray for the faithful departed and for all those experiencing deep suffering, including illness, loss of employment, isolation, loneliness and anxiety. May the intercession of Mary, Health of the Sick, bring healing and comfort to our Catholic community. And may she draw us ever closer to her Son, the Divine Physician.
Most Reverend William E. Lori
Wilton Cardinal Gregory
Most Reverend W. Francis Malooly
Most Reverend Roy E. Campbell Jr.
Most Reverend Mario E. Dorsonville-Rodriguez
Most Reverend Bruce Lewandowski, CSsR
Most Reverend Denis J. Madden
Most Reverend Adam J. Parker
On Dec. 21, 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a "Note on the morality of using some anti-COVID-19 vaccines" that discusses the morality of use of these vaccines in detail and also notes, "from the ethical point of view, the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one's own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good."
In Joyful Hope Webinar
Watch the recording online here | Originally aired Nov. 11, 2020
Planning for end of life care can be uncomfortable and you may not know where to start, but it's important to make sure your faith and wishes are known and followed. Our free webinar, In Joyful Hope: Planning Your Healthcare, will bring together experts to guide you through the process. Topics will include Catholic teaching on end of life care, guidance on filling out an advance health care directive, and options for excellent care, including palliative and hospice care.
Panelists: Rev. Michael DeAscanis, STL; Shannon Hammond, Esq.; and Joan Panke, NP.
Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, spoke about the elevation of Washington’s Archbishop, Cardinal-designate Wilton D. Gregory, to the College of Cardinals. Cardinal-designate Gregory serves on the Board of Governors of the Conference:
“Today’s appointment of Cardinal-designate Gregory to the College of Cardinals is a great honor for him, the people he serves, and for all of us here in Maryland. Cardinal-designate Gregory is a pastor at heart whose gentle ministry is guided by his deep love for Christ. The universal Church will gain from his wisdom, kindness and faith as he takes on this new responsibility as a special advisor to the Holy Father and papal elector.
"As our state and nation continue to grapple with racial tension, the appointment of the first African-American Cardinal in history also has special significance. Throughout his ministry, Cardinal-designate Gregory has sought to address wrongs and bridge differences. Earlier this month, he participated in a virtual town hall on police reform in Maryland and in June, he and the other bishops of Maryland released a letter on racial justice.
"We offer him our prayers and support!"
(Photo credit: Catholic Standard)
The Maryland Catholic Conference is convening two virtual town halls to discuss police reform and racial justice in Maryland, in partnership with two members of the Maryland House of Delegates Workgroup to Address Police Reform and Accountability, Delegate Darryl Barnes (D-25, Prince George’s County and chair of the Legislative Black Caucus) and Delegate Samuel “Sandy” Rosenberg (D-41, Baltimore City).
The town halls will be held:
- Tuesday, Oct. 6, 7:30 p.m. (our virtual "host" is Bishop McNamara High School, Forestville)
- Monday, Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m. (our virtual "host" is St. Bernardine parish, Baltimore)
Parishioners are invited to submit questions in advance or during the event here (please note which town hall). The town halls will be streamed live on the Maryland Catholic Conference’s Facebook page and can be accessed at mdcatholic.org/townhall.
Panelists for the Oct. 6 town hall are Archbishop of Washington Wilton D. Gregory; Delegate Barnes; William Milam, vice-president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police; and Renee Mortel Joy, chief of the Public Integrity Unit of the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office and member of the Prince George’s County Police Reform Work Group.
Panelists for the Oct. 26 town hall are Archbishop of Baltimore William E. Lori, Delegate Rosenberg, State Senator Jill P. Carter (D-41, City of Baltimore), and Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael S. Harrison.
The House of Delegates’ Police Reform Workgroup is holding hearings, reviewing policies and procedures, identifying best practices for reform and accountability, and making recommendations prior to the January 2021 General Assembly session.
Bishops' Letter on Racial Justice
In June 2020, the Maryland bishops released a statement on racial justice that called for “…healing, harmony and solutions that recognize that every person has been created in the image of God and that every person possesses human dignity. …We pray that God will guide us during these difficult times and give us the courage to act with conviction in our duty to seek racial equality, heal divisions, and build bridges of understanding and hope.”
"The world doesn't need what women have, it needs what women are." - Edith Stein
August 26, 2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Today, the United States recognizes an important milestone. One hundred years ago, women gained the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment was the culmination of decades of steadfast advocacy, often in the face of violence and discrimination, by heroic women from all walks of life throughout our nation.
As we celebrate this landmark achievement, we also acknowledge that many obstacles still must be overcome to achieve full recognition of the dignity of all women in our society.
Given the contributions of women to the electorate over the last century, it seems almost inconceivable that so many did not support women’s suffrage 100 years ago, including some of our predecessors. We express our deep gratitude for the women who devoted their lives to fighting for the dignity of women at a time when this was considered unacceptable.
The life of the Church in Maryland and, indeed, throughout our nation and world, has been enriched by women of the greatest caliber, women who have left their mark not only on the Church, but on all aspects of civilization. These women, and countless others, continue to inspire new generations of girls and women to share their unique gifts in service to the Church and for the common good.
As we mark this historic occasion, we also recognize the many hurdles women continue to confront as they live out their vocations.
We must remain vigilant to ensure that all women are treated with respect, acceptance and sincerity in the home, church, and workplace. We recall the prophetic words of St. John Paul II, who in his Letter to Women, said,“…there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State” while at the same time recognizing that “…much remains to be done to prevent discrimination against those who have chosen to be wives and mothers.”
In Christ is Alive, Pope Francis calls forth respect for women and acknowledgement that we as Church must recognize our own history: “[A] living Church can react by being attentive to the legitimate claims of those women who seek greater justice and equality. A living Church can look back on history and acknowledge a fair share of male authoritarianism, domination, various forms of enslavement, abuse and sexist violence.”
He goes on to note the desire of young women in the Church to have women role models and mentors. To this end, we are grateful in a particular way to the women who serve in leadership positions in our own (arch)dioceses, parishes, schools, and Catholic ministries for the witness and encouragement they provide to young people as women of faith, intelligence and leadership. We hold up, as well, all women who provide their children and our society a loving witness to the beauty of family life.
Our gratitude will never fully capture the heartfelt love we have for the many women in our own lives who have left an indelible mark on our character and vocations, beginning with our heavenly mother Mary. The enduring example of womanhood that Mary provides is a guiding light for all women; it is the ultimate example of unconditional love, sacrifice, strength, grace, and perseverance.
It is our desire that the next 100 years of our nation’s history will serve as a time of continued progress that never fails to recognize the God-given dignity of all women. The voices and contributions of women are needed now more than ever as we seek to build a culture that recognizes that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and those rights must be protected and preserved.
We pray that all people of good will will join us in celebrating this momentous anniversary for women in the United States and may God’s grace continue to bless all women as they seek to live out their vocations.
Most Reverend William E. Lori
|Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory
Archbishop of Washington
|Most Reverend W. Francis Malooly
Bishop of Wilmington
|Most Reverend Roy E. Campbell Jr.
Auxiliary Bishop of Washington
Most Reverend Mario E. Dorsonville-Rodriguez
Most Reverend Michael W. Fisher
|Most Reverend Bruce Lewandowski, CSsR
Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore
|Most Reverend Denis J. Madden
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Baltimore
|Most Reverend Adam J. Parker
Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore
The Supreme Court of the United States issued a number of opinions at the end of this year's session that directly impact Catholic entities or have been followed closely by the Church. Our staff summarized the issues and what the decisions mean:
Little Sisters of the Poor Win on Religious Freedom
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a “contraceptive mandate” requiring the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraceptives in their healthcare plan against their religious and moral objections. After a number of challenges, these women religious made their third appearance at the Supreme Court earlier this year in a case about religious freedom and conscience protections. In a 7-2 decision in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, the Court upheld the authority of a government agency to promulgate rules exempting employers with religious or moral objections from providing contraceptive coverage. The Little Sisters hope this will bring finality to their right to conscience protections on the issue.
Faith-Based Organizations May Employ Those Who Uphold Their Mission
In two cases consolidated into one for the Supreme Court’s decision, St. James School v. Biel and Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, the Court upheld and expanded upon constitutional protections for faith-based organizations in employment decisions. In both cases, Catholic schools were sued by teachers for employment decisions made relative to whether the teachers were effectively carrying out the schools’ mission and identity as faith-based institutions. The Court had previously ruled that the “ministerial exception” could apply in instances where a person was in fact considered a “minister.” In a 7-2 decision, the Court expanded upon that principle, ruling that faith-based schools may hire those who agree to carry out their faith mission and beliefs.
States Cannot Prevent Faith-Based Schools from Educational Choice Programs
Rooted in 19th-century anti-Catholic bigotry, “Blaine Amendments” in state constitutions that prohibited aid to faith-based schools have been used to block state-funded assistance to families and faith-based schools. In Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue, Ms. Espinoza, a single mother working three jobs, used a state-funded scholarship program to provide her children with the best education for their needs. The program was invalidated under Montana’s Blaine Amendment because it allowed families to choose a faith-based school. In a decision for educational choice and religious freedom, the Court invalidated the Blaine Amendment and ruled that it is unconstitutionally discriminatory for states to prohibit the participation of faith-based schools in state-funded programs simply due to their religious affiliation. Maryland does not have a Blaine Amendment.
Louisiana Abortion Regulations Struck Down
June Medical Services v. Russo dealt with a challenge to a Louisiana law requiring physicians to have admitting privileges at local hospitals in order to perform abortions. The Court held that its 2016 precedent in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt applied. There, an almost identical Texas law was struck down as an unconstitutional impediment to abortion. Though Chief Justice Roberts disagreed with the 2016 decision, he indicated that he was bound by the principles of legal precedent in concurring in the 5-4 decision.
DREAMERS Handed Victory in DACA Case
Since 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program has postponed the deportation of those brought into the United States as children. The program was created largely to ensure that students (a/k/a “DREAMERS”) who were by and large raised in the United States could continue their education and not be subject to deportation. In Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, the Court considered whether it was lawful for the current administration to phase out the DACA Program. The Court ultimately decided that the current administration did not have the authority to phase out the program in the manner that it did, and the program was thus upheld.
Clean Water Act Victory for Environmental Conservation
An environmental case of interest here in Maryland also was decided. In County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, the Court considered the just how far the Clean Water Act was intended to go toward protecting oceans and other navigable waters from harmful waste discharge. In a 6-3 decision, the court upheld a significant expansion of the instances where a permit is required for pollutant discharge into those waters, thus further protecting against harmful pollutants finding their way into our waterways.