Congratulations to Bishop Frank Schuster, who was ordained on May 3 at the St. James Cathedral in Seattle. The bishops of Washington welcome Bishop Schuster to the Washington State Catholic Conference. Bishop Schuster is now serving as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Seattle. Read more about the ordination in this Northwest Catholicarticle.
Last month Archbishop Paul Coakley, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), released this statement supporting the restoration of three regulatory provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Under these regulations federal agencies will be required to consider environmental impacts of infrastructure projects and give affected communities increased input during the approval process of such projects. In 2020 the USCCB opposed the rollback of these regulations under the previous administration. In line with Laudato Si', Bishop Coakley noted, " . . . this new rule will set a trajectory for long-term stability in environmental regulation as our country continues to take steps towards environmental justice and stewardship."
In April the Biden administration created "Uniting for Ukraine," streamlining processes for Ukrainians displaced by the war who are seeking entrance to the US. In this statement, USCCB bishops commended this action yet called for more robust support for Ukrainian refugees and all refugees. The new program does not grant full services and benefits that are provided to other refugees resettling under the U.S. Admissions Program, nor does it offer a pathway to citizenship. Additionally, the bishops expressed concern about policy that turns away Ukrainians seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border if individuals do not have a visa or pre-authorization to travel to the US. The bishops note that "All persons seeking asylum at our borders must consistently be offered the same opportunities for protection set out in US and international law, in accordance with their God-give dignity."
President Biden is expected to revise section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity) in health care programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. Anticipating gender transition interventions to be covered in revisions, USCCB bishops wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra expressing concern about conflict between health care and religious liberty. Read more about their religious liberty concerns here.
In December the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, and a decision is expected in May or June. The Supreme Court will have the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to determine their own laws on abortion and protecting the unborn. In response to the leak of a draft opinion of Dobbs, the USCCB released this statement calling for prayer and emphasizing that the Church will "stand ready to help all pregnant women in need in each of our communities." Click here for additional background on the case. Prayer resources for individual and parish ministry use may be accessed at PrayforDobbs.com.
In anticipation of the Dobbs decision, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued this statement in March affirming the Church's commitment to serving vulnerable populations, including mothers and children in need. The bishops urge dioceses, parishes, and Catholic agencies and institutions to redouble efforts to accompany women and couples facing unexpected or difficult pregnancies. Be sure to read the statement for more on how the Church and the faithful are called to serve women and families.
In Washington we can particularly heed this call to serve by participating in and contributing to the Pregnancy and Parent Support Program, or PREPARES. This program provides meaningful, local, sustainable support to mothers, fathers, and families as they nurture their children. As we await the Dobbs decision, now is the time to join or start this ministry at your parish.
If Roe is overturned, abortion will remain legal in Washington due to state law. Abortion was legalized in Washington in 1970, prior to the Roe decision. Additionally, HB 1851, a bill affirming access to abortion, was passed into law last month. The new law also expanded who may perform abortions. A physician is no longer necessary to perform an abortion; physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and other health care providers are now also authorized to perform the procedure. The WSCC opposed HB 1851.
Postponed due to the pandemic, last month the WSCC celebrated the retirement of Jim Thomas, WSCC Senior Policy Analyst. In addition to serving at the WSCC, Jim worked as the Director of Adult Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Seattle and as Peace and Justice Coordinator for the Diocese of Spokane. Jim also spent a decade working on justice issues related to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Speakers at Jim's celebration included Sr. Sharon Park and Joe Sprague, both former WSCC directors, as well as Patty Bowman, retired executive director of the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center. Thank you, Jim, for a long career of faith-filled service.
You're invited to join fellow Catholics to learn more about housing justice and homelessness on Saturday, May 14 at the St. James Cathedral in Seattle. WSCC's executive director, Mario Villanueva, will be speaking on Faithful Citizenship.