October 2017 Newsletter

The 87th Iowa General Assembly convenes later this morning. Most of the first week is taken up by the usual ceremonies and organizational meetings of committees. During the first day, legislative leaders address the chambers to talk about their plans for the session. Also coming up this week is Governor Branstad’s presumably final “Condition of the State” speech to the legislature and Chief Justice Cady’s “State of the Judiciary” address.

It’s a new situation at the State Capitol because last fall’s elections resulted in Republicans having control of both chambers and the governor’s office for the first time since the late 1990’s. Republicans gained control of the Iowa Senate, 29-20 with one independent. The Republicans in the House gained two seats giving them a 59-41 majority.

Every session presents some new opportunities and challenges for the Iowa Catholic Conference’s legislative agenda. You can find our entire list of legislative concerns here. You can also check out our toolbox for advocacy at the Legislature at iowacatholicconference.org/action-center/lobbying-resources. We look forward to working with you to protect human life and dignity in Iowa.

A great way for you to stay in touch with our action alerts (in addition to this newsletter) is to download the “Voter Voice” app on your iPhone or Android device. Once you enter your email you can search for “Iowa Catholic Conference” and add us to the app. That way you can respond to our alerts directly from your phone.


There’s still time to participate in the annual Mass for Life and register for the Iowa Institute for Social Action. The four bishops of Iowa will celebrate the Mass at Saints John and Paul Church in Altoona, IA this coming Sunday, Jan. 15 at 5 p.m. Bishop Martin Amos of Davenport will be the homilist.

The Institute for Social Action, our annual advocacy event, will be held at the parish on Jan. 15 and 16. For more information or to register go to iowasocialaction2017.eventbrite.com.

September 2017 Newsletter



Pope Francis today launched a worldwide, two-year “Share the Journey” campaign calling on Catholics to ‘encounter’ migrants and refugees in an effort to break down barriers of fear and suspicion and build bridges of understanding and hospitality. “Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to share the journey! Do not be afraid to share hope,” he said.


Many dioceses are sponsoring events in the coming weeks as a part of the campaign. The new website www.sharejourney.org offers ways in which people, parishes, schools and other groups can participate. “Share the Journey” is a call to prayer, to reflection and to action.


There are some specific action steps you can take today. One is to contact your members of Congress in support of the “DREAM Act of 2017.” Please click this link for a sample message to Congress in support of the DREAM Act. It was recently introduced in Congress as a bipartisan effort to protect immigrant youth who entered the United States as children and know America as their only home.


Earlier this month, the Catholic bishops of Iowa sent a letter to our Congressional delegation in support of DACA youth and the Dream Act. We also encourage you to follow up on the bishops’ letter by sending one of your own to your local newspaper. Our system will send the letter for you. Click here for a sample.


There is also a new action alert in support of our country’s being generous in the number of refugees we admit. You can send a message here. The low numbers being suggested by many do not reflect the need, our compassion, or our capacity as a nation.




Also connected to the dignity of every human being is the provision of health care.  Our tradition teaches that health care is more than a commodity; it is a natural human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity.


At press time it looks like the Republican leadership in the Senate has put aside another effort to change the Affordable Care Act.


Previously, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin called on the U.S. Senate to “think of the harm that will be caused to poor and vulnerable people” by provisions contained in the “Graham-Cassidy” health care legislation.  They urged Senators to “amend the legislation while retaining its positive features.” The full letter is available here.




The grassroots arm of the U.S. bishops for pro-life matters, Human Life Action, has sent out an updated action alert regarding the Conscience Protection Act. This bill would clarify federal law and ensure that those who provide health care and health coverage can do so without being forced by government to help destroy innocent unborn children.


The good news is that the Conscience Protection Act has been included in an appropriations bill passed by the House. Our goal is to make sure these and other pro-life provisions make it into the final bill which will probably be passed by Congress in December. This is why we are again being asked to contact our members of Congress. Even if you have already sent a message, please do so again. Go to www.humanlifeaction.org/take-action to send a message.




The U.S. bishops are welcoming a bipartisan bill that seeks climate solutions. Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Bishop Oscar Cantú have voiced their support for the Climate Solutions Commission Act of 2017, a bill that would establish a bipartisan National Climate Solutions Commission.


“This bill has the potential to inspire positive and concrete solutions towards protecting our common home,” said Bishops Dewane and Cantú.


Bishop Dewane is the Bishop of Venice, Florida and chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Bishop Cantú is the Bishop of Las Cruces, and chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the USCCB.




Congratulations to our ICC board chair, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, who has been named the 2017 recipient of the “Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award.” Bishop Pates will receive the award during the Hunger Luncheon on Oct. 16 at the Iowa Hunger Summit, held at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown.


The award was created in 2013 by The World Food Prize Foundation in recognition of Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray’s global humanitarian leadership, and as a special honor marking his 85th birthday. The award is presented annually to an Iowan who has provided significant leadership in confronting hunger and alleviating human suffering both at home and abroad, much as Gov. Ray did on behalf of Asian refugees during his time in office.


Bishop Pates was selected as this year’s recipient because of his work on social justice issues both domestic and abroad.




This is the time of year when Iowa Catholic Conference staff is out and about for meetings with our committees, legislators and other groups. Heading into next January’s legislative session we are working on a variety of concerns, including parental choice in education, immigration, pro-life, increasing the minimum wage, and opposing the reinstatement of the death penalty. Please pray for our work and the work of legislators as they consider their priorities for the next session.



August 2017 Newsletter

First things first. Let’s keep in our prayers the people who are facing Hurricane Harvey. Our colleagues at the Texas Catholic Conference have sent along a link from Catholic Charities USA in case you’re interested in making an immediate donation: bit.ly/2wwpwp5.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have established a new committee against racism. It will focus on addressing the sin of racism in our society, and even in the Church, and the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions.

Bishop George V. Murry, SJ of Youngstown, Ohio has been appointed chair of the committee. “Through Jesus’ example of love and mercy, we are called to be a better people than what we have witnessed over the past weeks and months as a nation. Through listening, prayer and meaningful collaboration, I’m hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society,” he said.

Next month, Pope Francis will launch a two-year “Share the Journey” Migration Campaign to increase support and solidarity for immigrants and refugees. Click here for more information.

Here in Iowa, we are continuing our work to stop the passage of Senate File 481. SF 481 would require law enforcement agencies to honor any immigration detainer request from the federal government, even those without a criminal warrant attached. This would be a significant change of practice for many local law enforcement agencies. We do not believe that an escalation of immigrant detention and intensive use of local enforcement in communities is the way to achieve compassionate and merciful reform of our immigration system. SF 481 already passed the Iowa Senate and was assigned to the House Public Safety Committee for possible action next year.

If you’re not sure what detainers are, click here for a resource from CLINIC, the U.S. Catholic bishops legal immigration network.

It is being reported that the five-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program may be in jeopardy. Attorneys general from several states have said they will sue the Trump Administration on Sept. 5 if the president doesn’t end the program.

DACA is an executive action that provides deportation relief and a work permit to select young people without papers who arrived or were brought to the U.S. before age 16. About 800,000 people who have passed Department of Homeland Security background checks are participating.

We note the words of the USCCB Committee on Migration Chair, Austin Bishop Joe Vasquez, to DACA recipients: “Please know that the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with you. We recognize your intrinsic value as children of God. We understand the anxiety and fear you face and we appreciate and applaud the daily contributions you make with your families, to local communities and parishes, and to our country.”

DACA recipients are members of families who entered the U.S. as children and know America as their only home. Does it make sense to pull the rug out from under them at this time?

We are waiting for a Polk County District Court’s decision in a lawsuit against the three-day waiting period in Iowa’s new 20-week abortion ban. The court case was brought by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. The prohibition on abortion after 20 weeks remains in place while the waiting period before an abortion has been held up by the Iowa Supreme Court.

While efforts in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act have stalled, the Iowa Insurance Division is asking permission from the federal government to implement a “stopgap measure” to bring stability to the individual health insurance market.

The insurance division says that without the Iowa Stopgap Measure, 20,000 more Iowans will likely be forced to go uninsured due to skyrocketing premium costs under the Affordable Care Act. Premiums are predicted to go up more than 40 percent.

The proposal would provide age- and income-based tax credits to help people pay for premiums while using a reinsurance mechanism for costly claims.

Congratulations to Dr. Phil Miller (D-Fairfield) who won a special election in House District 82 earlier this month to fill the seat of Rep. Curt Hanson, who died in June.


July 2017 Newsletter


The U.S. Senate is still working on a health care reform bill called the “Better Care Reconciliation Act.” In response to a newly-released version, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said, “The USCCB is reviewing carefully the health care bill introduced by Senate leadership earlier today (July 13). On an initial read, we do not see enough improvement to change our assessment that the proposal is unacceptable. We recognize the incremental improvement in funding the fight against opioid addiction, for instance, but more is needed to honor our moral obligation to our brothers and sisters living in poverty and to ensure that essential protections for the unborn remain in the bill.”

A letter responding to an earlier draft can be found at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/senate-discussion-letter-health-care-reform-2017-06-27.pdf.

Keep an eye on votervoice.net/USCCB/home for updated action alerts.


In a rare bipartisan effort, the U.S. House has passed the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPA), HR 2200, and sent it over to the Senate. This bill is an important step in continuing our nation’s efforts to eradicate human trafficking and assist human trafficking victims. H.R. 2200 ensures critical funding for both domestic and international anti-trafficking programs.


As you may recall, late last year the District of Columbia City Council passed a law legalizing doctor-prescribed suicide in our nation’s capital. The law formally took effect in late February but will not be implemented until Oct. 1.

On July 13, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to the Financial Services bill to nullify the doctor-prescribed suicide law. We were pleased to see that Rep. David Young of Iowa voted for the amendment.

There is still a ways to go on the issue – the bill itself needs to pass Congress and be signed by the president. We’ll keep you posted.

Administration URGED to Raise Cap on Refugee Admissions

U.S. refugee admissions have reached the historically low cap of 50,000 refugees allowed to be resettled in the United States for Fiscal Year 2017, as set forth by the Administration’s March 6th Executive Order 13780. Executive Order 13780 altered the initial Fiscal Year 2017 Presidential Determination which authorized the resettlement of 110,000 refugees into the United States. Currently there are approximately 22.5 million refugees seeking protection globally.

The following is a statement in response to the resettlement cap from the Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Austin, Texas, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration:

“I note with sadness that the new U.S. refugee admissions cap of 50,000 individuals has been reached this week. While certain refugees who have ‘bona fide relationships’ will still be allowed to arrive, I remain deeply concerned about the human consequences of this limitation and its impact on vulnerable refugees such as unaccompanied refugee children, elderly and infirm refugees, and religious minorities. Now, these vulnerable populations will not be able to access needed protection and will continue to face danger and exploitation. Pope Francis reminds us that ‘refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity.’ We must be mindful that every refugee is more than just a number, they are a child of God.

Looking forward, my brother bishops and I urge the Administration to allow 75,000 refugees to arrive to our country in the next fiscal year.”


The Catholic Mobilizing Network has a National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty. Go to www.catholicsmobilizing.org/action/pledge. If you’d like to get involved with efforts to stop the death penalty from being reintroduced to Iowa, reply to this email.

Earlier this month, ICC staff were among the 3,300 participants in the Joy of the Gospel Convocation for Catholic Leaders. It was a great opportunity to meet leaders from across the country and reflect on our responsibility to become missionary disciples. Click here to view some of the presentations at the event.

The third Shared Justice policy report, “Protecting Families From Payday Lending,” written by and for Christian 20- and 30-somethings, has been released. Click here for the document.

Congratulations to Jon Jacobsen (R-Council Bluffs), who was elected to fill the Iowa House seat of Rep. Greg Forristall. Rep. Forristall died in May.


May 2017 Newsletter

The Catholic bishops of Iowa have released a statement reviewing the 2017 Iowa legislative session.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds is now serving as governor following the resignation of Gov. Terry Branstad. In her inaugural address, she mentioned tax reform, energy, education and workforce issues as priorities. Branstad has been confirmed as the new U.S. ambassador to China.

ICC staff was pleased to be present when Gov. Branstad signed Senate File 471 on May 5. The bill prohibits abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization with exceptions to save the life of the mother or for a serious physical health emergency. The ICC has been working on similar legislation since 2011 and it is the first limitation on abortion passed in Iowa for many years. You can check out a photo of the bill-signing on our website.

The bill also included a three-day waiting period before an abortion. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood received a court order blocking the waiting period while a trial court will decide the matter. The 20-week ban itself is in place.

During the past session, the ICC fought efforts to restore the death penalty in Iowa. We are continuing our long-time collaboration with the Iowans Against the Death Penalty group. We also encourage you to read and sign the National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty.


Six chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a letter regarding President Donald J. Trump’s budget plan. That proposed budget calls for a sharp increase in military spending while making significant cuts across much of the rest of government, including the planned elimination of dozens of long-standing federal programs that assist the poor and vulnerable.

In letters to both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate sent May 19, the bishops reaffirmed the federal budget as a moral document containing profound implications for the common good of our nation and world. The letter states that the “budget requires difficult decisions that ought to be guided by moral criteria that protect human life and dignity, give central importance to ‘the least of these’ (Matthew 25), and promote the welfare of workers and families who struggle to live in dignity.”

Here’s the full text of the letter.

After the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628), Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the Senate to strip out the harmful provisions of the bill when the chamber takes it up for consideration.

“Even with efforts to improve the bill before passage, the American Health Care Act still contains major defects, particularly regarding changes to Medicaid that risk coverage and affordability for millions; it is deeply disappointing that the voices of those who will be most severely impacted were not heeded,” said Bishop Dewane. “The AHCA does offer critical life protections, and our health care system desperately needs these safeguards. But still, vulnerable people must not be left in poor and worsening circumstances as Congress attempts to fix the current and impending problems with the Affordable Care Act.”

Since discussions about repealing the Affordable Care Act began, the U.S. Bishops have repeatedly called for Congress to honor key moral principles in health care reform: access for all people to comprehensive, quality health care that is truly affordable, including extra consideration for pre-existing conditions; respect for life by preventing the use of federal funds for abortion or to purchase health care plans that cover it; and conscience protections.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, reacted to the announcement by the Democratic National Committee’s chair pledging support only for pro-abortion candidates. Calling the pledge “very disturbing,” Cardinal Dolan urged party members to “challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position.”


We extend our condolences to the family of Rep. Greg Forristall (R-Macedonia), who died on May 10. He was vice-chair of the House Education Committee. A special election is set for June 27.