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Thinking a Wrong Is Right

By Father Dave Pivonka, TOR

In 1973, after the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion in America, my dad—a doctor—was interviewed by the local paper about the ruling. One of his quotes became the story’s headline: “Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s right.”

I’ve never forgotten those words. Even as a second grader, they left a deep impression on me. I was only 8 years old, but I understood that no law could make what’s wrong right. No law could take away the dignity of the human person or make it okay to kill an unborn child.

Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize at the time is that while laws can’t make a wrong right, they can make people think a wrong is right. The law is teacher, and the law Roe v. Wade established has taught three generations of Americans that human persons are disposable. Along with the rest of what St. John Paul II called “the culture of death,” that ruling has tricked millions into believing that we can get rid of human beings when they inconvenience us or burden us.

This attitude puts countless lives in danger—not just the unborn, but also the elderly, the sick, the disabled, the poor, and the stranger. It also puts our entire culture in danger.

Choosing to love and care for the most vulnerable among us is not about politics. It’s not a prudential decision upon which people of good will can disagree. It is a moral imperative. Every other moral issue is related to recognizing the dignity of all human life. From the understanding that life is sacred and the human person is made in God’s image, every other action we call “good” flows.

Because of that, a culture that rejects the sacredness of life cannot endure. Everything that makes a culture healthy—honesty, trust, friendship, charity, kindness, courage—all of that hinges on the dignity of the human person. Take that away, and the rest will crumble. So will we.

Each of us faces the choice my father articulated back in 1973. Will we stand up for what is right, even when a law says we’re wrong? Or will we allow an unjust law to dictate what we believe and do?

On January 24, I will join hundreds of thousands of other Americans who are choosing to defend what is right, by participating in the 47th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Every year, Franciscan University of Steubenville, which is both my alma mater and the school I serve as president, transports hundreds of students to the march. Together, we walk. Not because we expect one lone march to change things. But rather as a reminder to our culture that this isn’t an issue that will just go away.

No law legalizing abortion has settled the question. No law legalizing abortion ever will settle the question. Abortion is wrong, and people who recognize that are going to keep showing up and keep speaking up until the law recognizes that, too. Again, the law is a teacher, and our future as a nation depends upon it teaching what is right and true.

Despite what the media wants us to think, abortion is not a private matter. It wounds the women who believe they don’t have any other option. It wounds the families who lose babies to love. It wounds the health care workers, who buy into the lie of abortion. And it wounds our entire culture, choking the life out of it at its very roots.

The public devastation of abortion demands a public response. Yes, we must pray to end abortion. We must do everything we can to empower women to raise their children or place them in loving homes through adoption. But we also must continue to speak up. We must refuse to allow our faith in the dignity of human life to be pushed aside and kept out of public view. We must continue to march. When we do, we put the conscience of America on display. We remind people of what my dad always knew: Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s right.

U.S. Bishops’ Conference and Loyola Press Release Children’s Book on Overcoming Racism

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and Loyola Press have published a new book for children ages 5-12, to help young readers engage in conversations about racism.

Inspired by the bishops’ 2018 pastoral letter “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism,” the children’s book Everyone Belongs allows young readers to reflect on the impact of racism in our society. The book helps readers see racism through the lens of history and faith, and teaches them how to engage in respect, understanding, and friendship.

In this fully illustrated book, Ray Ikanga is a boy whose family flees violence in their home country to come to the United States as refugees. The family moves into a new neighborhood but Ray’s excitement is interrupted when someone spray paints “Go home!” on their garage door.

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, and chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, who oversaw the production of the book, said, “Everyone Belongs is a book about recognizing the image of God in all people, valuing our differences, righting wrongs, and forgiveness. It is my hope that Everyone Belongs will help families, schools, and parishes engage in conversation and reflection about the dignity of every person made in God’s image.”

Everyone Belongs may be purchased online at Additional education and prayer resources to accompany the bishops’ pastoral letter on racism may be found at

Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, Loyola Press, Everyone Belongs, children’s book, racism, Open Wide Our Hearts, Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism.

Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte


U.S. Bishops’ Collection for the Church in Latin America Scheduled for January 25-26 Annual collection is a sign of solidarity between Catholics in the U.S. with Latin America and the Caribbean

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Church in Latin America has announced January 25-26 as the weekend for the annual Collection for the Church in Latin America. Dioceses may elect a different date to take up the collection to avoid conflict with local activities. For more than 50 years, the collection has been a sign of solidarity between Catholics of the United States and those in Latin America and the Caribbean by funding pastoral programs, seminarian and religious formation, and youth and family ministries.

For example, Caritas Argentina is a nonprofit that empowers more than 150 young Catholics to live out their faith in the service of those who are poor and excluded from society by training them in pastoral ministry to evangelize their local communities and share their faith throughout Argentina. The Church in Latin America collection also provided invaluable assistance to 235 youth from Haiti to attend World Youth Day 2019 in Panama and hear the Holy Father’s words of hope and mercy.

“The love of Christ compels us to share our faith and support all people who long to grow closer to Jesus. The Collection for the Church in Latin America expresses our solidarity with and love for the people of Latin America,” said Bishop Octavio Cisneros, auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn and chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America. “On behalf of the subcommittee, I wish to express my abiding gratitude to the people of the United States who generously support the collection each year and, through it, our brothers and sisters throughout the region.”

In November 2019, the Subcommittee for the Church in Latin America awarded nearly $4.2 million in grants to support the Church in Latin America and Caribbean, including areas ravaged by natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Information about the Collection for the Church in Latin America, including the 2018 annual report, may be found at www. Access to promotional resources in English and Spanish for use in parishes to promote the national collection are located at

Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Collection for the Church in Latin America, Bishop Octavio Cisneros, Subcommittee for the Church in Latin America, annual collection.

Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte


Bishop Chairmen Applaud Administration Measures to Strengthen Religious Liberty, Embrace Contributions of Faith-based Organizations

WASHINGTON - On Religious Freedom Day, when the Constitutional protection of conscience and the freedom to exercise one’s religious faith is celebrated nationwide, the Administration announced measures that would strengthen the protection of religious liberty for individuals and for faith-based organizations. Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, chairman of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J., of Oakland, CA, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education, have issued the following joint statement:

“We wish to express our gratitude for these steps to ensure that the Constitutional right of individual students and teachers to pray voluntarily in public schools is protected. This fundamental right ensures that persons may freely worship without sacrificing full participation in schools and in society.

“We are also heartened by the Administration’s action to ensure federal agencies are fully compliant with the Supreme Court’s decision in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer. That decision properly concluded that it is unconstitutional for government to exclude faith-based organizations from public benefits simply because of their religious status. Today’s action and the Court decision it echoes both honor the American tradition of embracing the contributions of faith-based organizations and enrich the work of social justice by harnessing the efforts of these vital institutions of civil society. Lastly, we are grateful for the proposal to lift certain regulatory burdens from faith-based organizations. This will help ensure a level playing field for religious and secular social service providers.”

Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Religious Freedom Day


Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte


U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops File Amicus Brief with U.S. Supreme Court Urging New Trial of Death Row Inmate Based on Evidence of Actual Innocence

WASHINGTON— On January 17, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in support of James M. Dailey, an inmate on Florida’s death row, urging a new trial in his case due to persuasive evidence of actual innocence. The amicus brief explains the Catholic Church’s longstanding opposition to the death penalty. The Church teaches that capital punishment violates respect for life and human dignity. The injustice is especially acute in the instance of an innocent person sentenced to death. The amicus brief also argues that the execution of an innocent person violates the Constitution of the United States.  

The amicus brief reviews the facts of Mr. Dailey’s case and concludes that the evidence of his actual innocence is persuasive, but that he was not able to present it at a new trial for procedural reasons. The brief declares that there is no legal or procedural reason that could morally justify the execution of an innocent person.  

Both the USCCB and FCCB uphold the Church’s teaching on the dignity of life and on capital punishment in the amicus brief by stating, “The radical injustice of punishing an innocent man is particularly grievous in the case of a sentence of death, which is by its nature final and irreversible.” The brief recalls that “Pope Francis has also identified the convictions of innocent men and women as striking at the core of the death penalty’s claim to justice: ‘[t]he death penalty loses all legitimacy due to the defective selectivity of the criminal justice system and in the face of the possibility of judicial error. Human justice is imperfect, and the failure to recognize its fallibility can transform it into a source of injustice.’”  

The full text of the amicus brief is available here.  
Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, amicus curiae, U.S. Supreme Court, Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, FCCB, James M. Dailey, death penalty, capital punishment, human justice, Pope Francis.


Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte


U.S. Bishops’ Migration Committee Chair Welcomes Court Injunction that Halts Implementation of Executive Order on Refugee Resettlement

WASHINGTON—A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction in HIAS Inc., et al v. Trump, halting implementation of Executive Order 13888 which had given state and local officials the power to veto initial resettlement of refugees into their jurisdictions. Unless it is overturned by the judge or a higher court, this injunction lasts until the end of the case. The injunction orders that the resettlement program’s operational rules be returned to how they were before the Executive Order was issued on September 26, 2019. In other words, while the federal immigration officials will diligently engage with state and local officials, as always, to assure local concerns are taken into account, the program will return to federal officials having the final responsibility of deciding where refugees will be resettled.

Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, issued the following statement:

“Jesus Christ, who was part of a refugee family, calls us to welcome the stranger, and our pro-life commitment requires us to protect refugees. Today’s ruling is a welcome step in our ongoing ministry to provide refugees, who are fleeing religious persecution, war, and other dangers, with safe haven here in the United States. We had previously expressed deep concerns about this Executive Order permitting state and county officials to turn away refugees from their communities. We feared the negative consequences for refugees and their families as this Executive Order would have created a confusing patchwork across America of some jurisdictions where refugees are welcomed, and others where they are not. Today’s injunction helps to maintain a uniform national policy of welcome to refugees and serves to maintain reunification of refugee families as a primary factor for initial resettlement.

“During the initial implementation of this Executive Order, I was moved to hear that it received robust bipartisan support from 42 governors and a myriad of local officials who consented to initial resettlement. Once more, we see the intention to act united as a nation in the effort to provide solidarity to those who need it most and are encouraged by the compassion that this nation has towards refugees. The Church looks forward to continue working with communities across America to welcome refugees as we uphold the dignity of all human life.”

Keywords: USCCB, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, Committee on Migration, refugees, President Trump.

Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte


National Prayer Vigil for Life In Nation’s Capital, January 23-24

WASHINGTON—The National Prayer Vigil for Life will be held from Thursday, January 23 to Friday, January 24, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Over 20,000 pilgrims from around the nation are expected to gather there and pray for an end to abortion before the annual March for Life on the National Mall. The Vigil marks the 47th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion through nine months of pregnancy. Since those decisions, over 60 million abortions have been performed legally in the United States.

The principal celebrant and homilist at the opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life on January 23 will be Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, who is chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Many of the nation’s bishops and priests will concelebrate the Mass with Archbishop Naumann in the basilica’s Great Upper Church. The principal celebrant and homilist for the closing Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life on January 24 will be Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D. of the Military Services, USA, who is secretary for the USCCB. After the conclusion of the Mass on Friday, the participants make their way down to the national mall for the annual March for Life.

The schedule for the National Prayer Vigil for Life:

Thursday, January 23:
•  5:30 PM  Opening Mass in the Great Upper Church
•  8:00 PM  National Rosary for Life
•  9:30 PM  Byzantine Rite Night Prayer
•  11:00 PM ~  Holy Hours led by seminarians (through the night)

Friday, January 24:
•  ~ 6:00 AM  Eucharistic Adoration in the Crypt Church
•  6:30 AM  Morning Prayer and Benediction
•  7:30 AM  Closing Mass in the Great Upper Church

For those seeking the Sacrament of Reconciliation, confessions will be heard in the Our Lady of Hostyn Chapel of the Crypt Church over the course of nine hours before and after the opening Mass. See for additional details.

“Even if you aren’t able to physically be present with us in DC, we invite everyone to join in our witness and pray for an end to abortion,” said Kat Talalas, assistant director for pro-life communications at the USCCB. “Thousands of Catholics across the country have already signed up for 9 Days for Life, the pro-life novena taking place January 21-29. We ask all of the faithful to unite in prayer to protect the rights of unborn children, to end the violence of abortion, and for greater respect for human life.”

The National Prayer Vigil for Life is co-sponsored by the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and The Catholic University of America.

Media are invited to attend the opening Mass and interview pilgrims who have traveled to Washington from around the country for the fourteen-hour vigil. Advance registration is requested via the media request form on the basilica’s website. Video footage from the Mass may also be obtained by satellite feed, courtesy of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). For coordinates, please contact Jacquelyn Hayes, director of communications for the basilica, at 202-281-0615 or [email protected].

For more details on the overnight National Prayer Vigil for Life and other pro-life events in the Washington area, please visit To join -- and help spread the word about -- 9 Days for Life, visit

Keywords: National Prayer Vigil for Life, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, abortion, Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, U.S. Supreme Court, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, The Catholic University of America, cardinals, bishops, seminarians, Byzantine rite, rosary, adoration, benediction, 9 Days for Life, prayer, #VigilforLife, #9daysforlife, March for Life, #whywemarch, #marchforlife2020, #LifeEmpowers, #WalkingWithMoms, #WalkWithMoms, Project Rachel, post-abortion healing,

Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte


MEDIA ADVISORY: 9 Days for Life Unites Catholics Nationwide in Prayer for the Protection of Life

WASHINGTON—Catholics nationwide are preparing to pray 9 Days for Life, the annual pro-life novena beginning this year on January 21.

In the Catholic Church, a ‘novena’ consists of prayers or actions over nine successive days. The pro-life novena is an opportunity for recollection and reparation in observation of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade—the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal throughout the United States.

The overarching intention of the novena is the end to abortion. Each daily intention highlights a related topic and is accompanied by a reflection, educational information, and suggested daily actions. The novena encompasses the annual Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children on January 22.

All are invited to sign up at Participants can choose to receive the novena via email, text message, a printable version, or through a free "9 Days for Life" mobile app (with customizable reminders) in English or Spanish. Participants can share their pro-life witness and invite their social networks to pray on social media with the hashtag #9DaysforLife. A leader’s kit is available, and features the daily prayer intentions and reflections, among other resources.

Sponsored by the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 9 Days for Life began in 2013 in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

For additional information and updates throughout the novena, please follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Keywords: USCCB, Catholic, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Roe v. Wade, abortion, anniversary, Pro-Life, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, 9 Days for Life, People of Life, #9daysforlife, prayer, novena.

Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte


Book Review: We are the Lord's

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer

Two years ago, I joined a Catholic women’s symposium that discusses the weighty matters affecting our Church and our culture. One member of our group recently told us that her elderly father was in his last days. She asked for prayers and any resources we might have to guide her and her siblings and mother in navigating weighty end-of-life issues she expected they would face. There was a flurry of supportive responses and commitments to pray, but it took a while before anyone could forward along any helpful material. For my part, I knew of nothing to suggest off-hand.

I won’t face this problem again, thanks to Father Jeffrey Kirby’s We are the Lord’s: A Catholic Guide to Difficult End-of-Life Questions. A copy of this excellent, straight-forward end-of-life book arrived in the mail a few weeks ago, though, alas, a few days after my colleague’s father passed away (a “happy death” with family around, she relayed) and the email thread ended. Kirby sets forth basic principles of discernment for answering some of the hardest – and most common – questions surrounding end-of-life medical care and treatment. He also addresses the challenging practical issues that face the dying and their family members at this time.

Father Kirby begins by confronting the great modern misunderstanding of the human condition and dying. “No person is a burden,” he writes. Yes, this may seem obvious to so many us, but it’s no less important a truth, because we live in a culture that is “intoxicated with utilitarianism” – the notion that “any inconvenience for another person, or any service that makes us uncomfortable, is unmerited.” Christian teaching, however, has “always asserted that the only response to a person is love.” Loving the dying – seeking their good, delighting in them – exposes, Kirby argues, the “selfishness that disguises as compassion.” For children of God, Kirby reminds us, “quality of life” is “matured by love and an openness to live with inconvenience, discomfort, imperfection and suffering.”

Kirby outlines three important principles of discernment to guide bioethical and end-of-life decisions. One, we must recognize God as our Creator and accept the existence of an objective order of moral truth that is beyond us. “Our personal will, or desire for autonomy, are not sovereign,” he writes. “These must be placed within our human dignity and the objective order of moral goodness.” Two, we must understand our particular vocation. That is, we have to consider our duties and responsibilities toward others, our talents and capabilities, as well as the state of our souls. Three, we must appreciate the difference between what is morally obligatory (ordinary care, in the medical context) and what is morally optional (extraordinary care).

My own parents recently told me that they have “all of their affairs in order.” One such affair is the advanced directive, a summary of a person’s wishes in various medical situations. Father Kirby notes, however, that while such planning is prudent, it does not completely resolve end-of-life questions. As bioethicists often say, “When you have one situation, you have one situation.” Advanced directives, therefore, must always should be understood as guidelines and, most importantly, never can betray moral truths in light of the unique set of circumstances a person faces.

On a most practical level, We are the Lord’s includes a chapter that addresses specific medical questions. It’s a quick reference for readers facing urgent decisions. One common medical concern, for instance, is the continued provision of nutrition and hydration. Kirby is unequivocal in explaining that unless a person’s body cannot assimilate them or it becomes harmful, at no point should a sick person be denied food or water.

The overarching lesson of We are the Lord’s is to abide, and encourage our loved ones to abide, in a spirit of abandonment to the will of God. In living. And dying. The book’s title – coming, as it does, from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans —reminds us how end-of-life decisions for ourselves or others should be faced: “For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

I’d not only recommend reading We are the Lord’s, I’d also suggest having a copy or two of Father Jeffrey Kirk’s handy guide available for the next time a friend, family member or colleague faces an end-of-life issue.

Waiting Well

By Father Dave Pivonka, TOR

I am not Scrooge. I want to get that out there before I write anything else. I love Christmas. I don’t want to “Bah! Humbug!” twinkle lights. And I plan on giving every employee of Franciscan University of Steubenville a week off to celebrate.

But (you knew the “but” was coming), it’s not yet Christmas.

Despite what the Hallmark Channel says, Christmas doesn’t start in October, or even on Thanksgiving Weekend. Nor is the holiday itself a celebration of perfectly decorated trees, sleigh rides, and snowman-building competitions. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Christmas celebrates his coming, the miraculous entrance of God himself into human history. On Christmas morning, we rejoice in the wonder of the Incarnation, of God becoming a tiny human baby, born in a stable. And we rejoice at the merciful love that would lead that baby to Calvary, where he would open the gates to heaven once more.

Christmas morning, however, isn’t until December 25. Before then, for a period of roughly four weeks, we prepare for that morning. The Church calls this season of preparation “Advent.”

During Advent, we ready our hearts and homes for the coming of the Savior. We reflect. We pray. And we wait.

As the world waited through countless long centuries for God to send the redeemer promised to Adam and Eve, we wait.

As Israel waited for God to honor the covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David, we wait.

As Mary waited nine long months to hold her baby, we wait.

As Jesus waited to go to Jerusalem, where all would be fulfilled, we wait.

And as the Apostles waited in the Upper Room, first after Jesus’ Crucifixion and later after Jesus’ Ascension, we wait.

The story of salvation history, from first to last, is filled with accounts of God’s people waiting – waiting for a home, waiting for a spouse, waiting for a child, waiting for a promise to be fulfilled, and above all, waiting for redemption, waiting for Jesus. Waiting is a constant theme in Sacred Scripture, and that should clue us in to an important truth: learning to wait well matters. It is spiritually important.
Most of us, though, don’t wait well. We stand in front of the microwave and say, “Hurry up.” We wish our InstaPot were just a bit quicker. We skip the drive-through because the line is too long. We get frustrated when we pray and pray, but don’t get the answer we want right away.

As a people, we don’t wait well. And because we don’t wait well, we suffer. We lose hope. We despair. We miss out on the blessings of the moment, becoming so focused on what God isn’t giving us that we fail to see what he is giving us.

Advent, however, invites us to do things differently. It invites us to wait – to hold off, for just a little while, on the celebrating, so we can come to a deeper appreciation of the reason for the celebrating.

When we take Advent up on that invitation, we discover the secret to waiting well.

Waiting well is finding Jesus where we are, not only where we will be or want to be.

Waiting well is inviting God into the moment – this moment, right now, not some future moment.

Waiting well is not only looking at what will be, but also discovering God in what is.

Waiting well is trusting that God is faithful; it’s believing that regardless of whatever present darkness might surround us, light will come.

And waiting well means allowing God to slowly change our hearts in this time so when we once again find our God, lying in the crib, we can realize he was with us all along.

This Advent, don’t be in a hurry. Take it slow. Go ahead and prepare for Christmas – buy the gifts, ready your home, do your baking – but also wait. Wait to open the gifts. Maybe wait to do the final decorating until Christmas gets closer. Or even wait to eat all those cookies until Christmas Eve. Just save something about Christmas for Christmas, and trust that the wait will be worth it. It always is.

For more thoughts on Advent from Father Dave as well as inspirational videos, blogs, music, and other resources, visit Franciscan University’s ’Tis the Season Advent website.