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Appeal To Governor Of Texas For Stay Of Execution of Hernandez-Llanas

The Texas Catholic Conference has appealed to Governor Rick Perry to intercede on behalf of Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas who's scheduled execution is at 6:00 p.m. today. 

While expressing the deepest sympathies and prayers to the families of the victims for their loss and suffering, the Catholic Church continues to oppose the use of capital punishment. At a time when the sanctity of life is threatened in so many ways, state-sanctioned killing is not a solution, but undermines society's respect for life. 

TCC Appeals To Governor Of Texas For Stay Of Execution: Jasper

TCC Appeals To Governor Of Texas For Stay Of Execution 
The Texas Catholic Conference has appealed to Governor Rick Perry to intercede on behalf of Ray Jasper, who is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 6:00 p.m. today. Jasper was convicted of capital murder for killing a man during a robbery. The Church has tremendous sympathy for the family of the victim. In no way does the Church diminish the suffering the family has endured as a result of this tragedy. 

The Catholic Church opposes the use of the death penalty as a means of punishment or a deterrent to crime because there are alternative means to protect society available. 

TCC Appeals to Governor for Stay of Execution for Anthony Doyle

The Texas Catholic Conference has appealed to Governor Rick Perry to intercede on behalf of Anthony Doyle, who is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 6:00 p.m. today. Doyle was convicted of killing a woman who was delivering food to his home. While expressing the deepest sympathies and prayers to the families of the victims for their loss and suffering, the Catholic Church continues to oppose the use of capital punishment. At a time when the sanctity of life is threatened in so many ways, state-sanctioned killing is not a solution, but undermines society's respect for life. Find prayer vigils in your area to end the death penalty.      
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Texas Bishops Correct Misinformation About End-of-Life Care

Continued misrepresentations about the Advanced Directives bill from the 83rd Texas Legislature have prompted the Texas bishops to issue a letter correcting the specifics of the reforms and how they comport with Catholic moral teachings.

The bi-partisan legislation (H.B. 1444 and S.B. 303) endorsed by the Texas Catholic Conference would have protected the lives of patients, respected the wishes of families, and safeguarded the consciences of medical providers at the end of life. It was a tremendous improvement over existing law, which fails to protect life by allowing unilateral Do Not Attempt Resuscitation orders for patient's without notice, permits withholding of nutrition and hydration to hasten death, and discriminates against the disabled when deciding to end treatment.

The reform bill endorsed by the bishops prohibited withholding of food or water, required patients and families be notified of their rights to reject DNARs, and provided a clear, balanced procedure for resolving disputes between doctors and families.

Opponents demanded continued interventions on patients, even if it was ineffective and against reasonable medical judgment. They prevented a vote in the Texas House after overwhelming support in the Texas Senate. Since then, they have continued a campaign that severely mischaracterizes the reform efforts as a way to influence legislative elections. The letter is here.
 available here.

Youth Council Members Rally For Life At State Capitol

youthrallyBy Evan Psencik
On Saturday, Jan. 25, members of the Archdiocesan Youth Council joined with thousands of Texans from across the state at the Texas Rally for Life in Austin. This event brings people of different ages, backgrounds and faiths together at the steps of the Capitol to show their support for life.

Our group’s day began several blocks from the Capitol where we joined up with numerous Church organizations, youth groups, clergy and religious from all denominations to prepare for the march. I was amazed by the number of different signs people held. Some with their group’s name on them, others with slogans for life or their favorite saints. The march began on one side of the Capitol and traveled several blocks around the downtown area. Once our group arrived on the Capitol grounds, the march route was lined with police officers to ensure that there were no clashes between the opposing groups.

Read More.

Difficult Moral Decisions In Brain Death

fr. tad pacholczyk CNN recently profiled the case of a woman named Marlise Munoz, who was both pregnant and brain dead. Its report noted that Mrs. Munoz was "33 years old and 14 weeks pregnant with the couple's second child when her husband found her unconscious on their kitchen floor November 26. Though doctors had pronounced her brain dead and her family had said she did not want to have machines keep her body alive, officials at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, argued state law required them to maintain life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient."

The family sought a court order to have Mrs. Munoz disconnected from the ventilator because she had shared that she never wanted to be on life support. It remained unclear, however, whether Mrs. Munoz would have felt the same way about life support if she knew she were pregnant and nurturing a child.

As weeks on the ventilator turned into months, Mrs. Munoz began to manifest overt signs of death: her skin texture changed, becoming cool and rubbery like a mannequin's, and her body began to smell of deterioration. Maintaining a mother's corpse on a ventilator requires significant effort and expense, and imposes real burdens on family members, who would like to be able to grieve their loss, and are not fully able to do so while their loved one remains in a state of suspended animation -- deceased, yet not quite ready to be buried because she is still supporting a living child.

Mrs. Munoz's case raises challenging questions: should the continued use of a ventilator in these circumstances be considered extreme? Could such life-sustaining measures be considered abusive of a corpse? These are hard questions, in part because people can give their bodies over to a variety of uses after they die. Some donate them to science, so students can open them up, look around inside and learn about anatomy. Others donate their organs to help strangers who need transplants. Similarly, a mother's corpse -- no longer useful to her -- may be life-saving for her child. Wouldn't a mother, carrying a child in her womb, and having expended so much effort to foster that new life, naturally want to offer her child this opportunity to live, even after her own death? The medical literature documents several cases where such a child has been delivered later by C-section and fared well. Thus it can clearly be reasonable in certain situations for medical professionals to make a serious effort to shuttle a pregnancy to the point of viability, for the benefit of the sole remaining patient, i.e. the child.


USCCB Migration Committee To Travel to U.S.-Mexico Border to Remember Fallen Migrants, Highlight Human Consequences of Broken Immigration System

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, joined by bishops on the border, will travel to Nogales, Arizona, March 30-April 1 to tour the U.S.-Mexico border and celebrate Mass on behalf of the close to 6,000 migrants who have died in the U.S. desert since 1998.

The purpose of the trip is to highlight the human suffering caused by a broken immigration system, an aspect of the national immigration debate which is often ignored.

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Bishops 'Disappointed' By Federal Court's Ruling On Same-Sex Marriage


Texas' Roman Catholic Bishops issued a statement expressing disappointment at the decision by the Federal District Court in San Antonio to strike down the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage that voters approved in 2005.  This is the latest maneuver in a unfortunate campaign to redefine marriage as a legal endorsement of individual lifestyles rather than as a sacred and beneficial social institution between one man and one woman.   This campaign totally ignores the rights of children to know their father’s love and their mother’s love.

While we maintain the deepest love and compassion for all our brothers and sisters, we also recognize that the institution of marriage acts as the foundational unit of society and culture.  For centuries, societies have upheld marriage as a public institution between a man and a woman because of its unique and essential contribution to establishing families and ensuring the common good.  
No new civil definition of marriage can change what is rooted in the very nature of human beings or what has been revealed by God to be a fundamental and sacred institution within society and the community of the Church. We are hopeful that an objective review of the ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will recognize the fundamental purpose of marriage in society and affirm the right of the people of Texas to continue upholding marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

'Great Misunderstanding' Seen On Church's Teachings On End Of Life

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- There is "great misunderstanding" among Catholics and others about the church's teachings on whether and when life-sustaining medical treatment can be withdrawn when death is near, according to a leading Catholic bioethicist. Marie T. Hilliard, director of bioethics and public policy and a staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said the Philadelphia-based center conducts about 2,000 consultations a year with "families in distress" who want to talk with an ethicist "about the church's teaching in light of their (family) situation."
Staff members hear from people who believe that "dialysis can never be discontinued," for example, or that a feeding tube is obligatory "even when it is doing more harm than good," she said. "Persons who are dealing with crises need to be helped to understand in that situation what is the natural moral law," Hilliard said. "The church always deals with the good and trying to reach the good," even when that means accepting the natural process of dying, she added.
As outlined in the U.S. bishops' "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services," the church teaches that patients "may forgo extraordinary or disproportionate means of preserving life," defined as "those that in the patient's judgment do not offer a reasonable hope of benefit or entail an excessive burden, or impose excessive expense on the family or the community." Survey results recently released by the Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project found that 57 percent of Americans would tell their doctors to stop medical treatment if they had a disease with no hope of improvement and were suffering a great deal of pain, while 35 percent said they would tell the doctors to do everything possible to save their lives. Eight percent said it depends or they did not know.


Payday Lending

bishop-guillory-thumbnailOn Jan. 22 2014, Bishop Curtis Guillory hosted Beaumont city leaders for a discussion of the impact of payday and auto-title lending in the area.  Community leaders gathered at Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas in order to explore alternative loan products and possible city action to protect consumers from usurious lending rates. Following the educational sessions, listening sessions were conducted with non-profit case mangers.

See Informative Graphics.
Learn about Payday Alternatives in the Diocese of Austin. 

Program Helps Those Indebted To Payday Lenders

Catholic Spirit – The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP), Diocesan Council of Austin has launched a pilot program to help those crushed by debt from payday loan companies.
 The Predatory Loan Conversion Program pilot starts in February within five parishes in the diocese and is limited to those whose loans are $500 or less, said Stacy Ehrlich, executive director of the SVdP Diocesan Council.

The program was formed at the urging of Bishop Joe Vásquez, who is concerned that payday loans and auto title loans, which are most often used by those who do not have access to credit, are hurting families.
 About 70 percent of the payday loans issued in Texas are for $500 or less, said Amelia Erickson, associate director of development for the council. The average payday loan in Texas is taken out for $300 but requires $840 to be repaid, a staggering fact that caused Bishop Vásquez to advocate on this issue before the Austin City Council and in the Texas Legislature to close loopholes in laws that allow these predatory lending practices. 

Most loans are very short-term –– two to four weeks in length. But aside from the interest rates, there are finance charges and origination fees tacked on. Those who can't pay the original loan and origination fee, interest and other charges by the end of the loan terms will then have the loan rolled over, meaning that a new loan with more finance charges and origination fees will be generated. When that happens multiple times, people begin suffocating under the weight of what was originally a small loan.

Bishop Vásquez said in the Bishop's Interview of the May 2013 Catholic Spirit that regulation is needed because the exploitation of the poor is only getting worse. A proliferation of payday and auto title lending storefronts have flooded shopping centers and neighborhoods and we are bombarded by the radio and television commercials that promise "easy" and "same-day" cash to entice desperate families in need of help to pay for medical emergencies, groceries, rent or utilities.
 "Instead of the promise of easy short-term loans, however, financially vulnerable families get trapped in a continuous cycle of debt, fees and interest from which they cannot escape," the bishop said. Barbara Budde, the diocesan director of Social Concerns, said predatory lending has trapped too many families and individuals in a bitter cycle of debt that can crush hope and the human spirit. 
"I know Bishop Vásquez is anxious to see alternatives to predatory lending available to the community like this program from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul," she said. Under the program, those predatory loans will not be paid off by the SVdP but will instead be converted into a share-secured credit union loan at under 5 percent APR. SVdP is not the lender, they are the guarantor of the loans: they are raising funds to serve as collateral. Part of that money that will fund the Loan Conversion Program comes from a two-year, $30,000 grant from the Texas Financial Education Endowment - a Texas legislative initiative. The Society has already raised $13,500 in seed money donated by SVdP groups to cover start-up costs. 


© 2013 Texas Catholic Conference
Phone: (512) 339-9882   •   Fax: (512) 339-8670 
Physical Address: 1600 North Congress Avenue, Suite B, Austin TX 78701
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 13285, Austin, TX 78711
The Texas Catholic Conference is the association of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas. We accredit the state's Catholic Schoolsmaintain records that reflect the work of the Church in Texas, and represent the Bishops in the public policy sphere.