jp alert court
The effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to be felt across the world and likely will persist for the foreseeable future. As rhythms of work, worship, and community have shifted, so, too, have public priorities, policies, and longstanding practices within government.

R esponding to change can be uncomfortable and confusing, but you are not alone in this moment! CMSM's president, Very Rev. Adam Gregory Gonzales, OCD, recently sent a note inviting leaders of male religious to share their thoughts during these uncertain times so the CMSM team can support their needs.

In a similar fashion, we invite those who work in the context of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation ministries to contact our Justice and Peace Fellow, Bethany Welch, Ph.D . , with questions, concerns, or suggestions about how this office can help you navigate changing dynamics.
On July 18, 2019, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men played a major role in coordinating an action that involved more than 70 Catholic leaders joined in prayerful public witness and nonviolent civil disobedience at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant and Refugee Children was followed by other acts of advocacy, public witness, and civil disobedience that brought together hundreds of people calling for the end of child detention.

In that same spirit, we worked with representatives of other national Catholic organizations last week to respond to the recent ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee to release children from family detention centers by July 17, 2020. While the judge’s ruling seems to be a positive step for the children’s health and freedom, we know that the situation is more urgent and complex than it appears.

First, children and parents currently detained are already experiencing untenable living conditions and grave medical issues, exacerbated by the traumatization of being treated like criminals. Couple that with the positive COVID-19 cases among the families and the facility employees and the situation is not just dire, it is deadly.

Second, similar rulings by the federal judge have already been made during the pandemic and yet the children have not been released. We are concerned that ICE and collaborating agencies may seek to comply with the judge’s July 17th deadline by recreating a family separation policy similar to those deployed in the past. This is unacceptable.

Very Rev. Michael K. Barth, S.T., General Custodian, Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity/Trinity Missions and Chair of the Justice and Peace Committee of CMSM, spoke directly to the issue at hand, saying:

"Members of many of the men's religious institutes that belong to the Conference of Major Superiors of Men work alongside and accompany people on the move through our parishes and apostolic works, our ministries and missions. This includes asylum seekers such as those being held in the family detention centers in Pennsylvania and Texas. We call for release of these children and parents. Parents must not be asked to choose between the release of their child from a physically and emotionally harmful setting and their ability to be united with their children."

  • Read the full statement and the article by Crux that includes comments from other organizations who endorsed the statement.
  • See the Take Action section below for details on how to support the #FreetheFamilies campaign, including an upcoming action in Pennsylvania.
supreme court
The U.S. Supreme Court has released several opinions in the past few weeks that are relevant to the ministries and apostolic works of CMSM members as well as to issues that fall within the social doctrines of the Church.

Asylum seekers denied right to be heard in federal court
In late June, the justices ruled that asylum seekers whose claims have been denied by immigration officials do not have the right to a hearing in court.

This decision creates a “fast-track” to deportation if the credible fear screenings are handled poorly. For example, asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable to a negative outcome if they do not have legal representation, if there is not proper language interpretation, or if they do not have access to specific documents in that exact moment to substantiate the claim. Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenberg explained Justice Samuel Alito’s argument, recounting, “ He said that neither the right of habeas corpus nor the right to due process of law requires a hearing before a judge for those turned down in their initial asylum screenings.”

Law requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors is struck down
Pro-life advocacy at the state level has made inroads in recent years with regulatory change focused on women’s health. However, on June 29, the justices struck down the Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. USCCB and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, together with the National Association of Evangelicals, had filed amicus curiae briefs in the June Medical Services v. Russo case arguing that, “The challenged law has one purpose: to safeguard the health and safety of women who need to be hospitalized because of injuries resulting from an abortion.”

The USCCB Pro-Life Chairman Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann (Kansas City, KS) responded to the ruling , saying, “The Court’s failure to recognize the legitimacy of laws prioritizing women’s health and safety over abortion business interests continues a cruel precedent. As we grieve this decision and the pregnant women who will be harmed by it, we continue to pray and fight for justice for mothers and children.”

Religious exemption from contraception provision upheld and expanded
The court’s ruling on  Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania  upheld previous decisions stating that the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury, which collaboratively administer the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) had “the authority to provide exemptions from the regulatory contraceptive requirements for employers with religious and conscientious objections.”

In other words, religious organizations and employers can choose to opt out of covering the cost of prescription birth control for employees. The exemption has been a longstanding debate in the context of religious liberty. The Little Sisters of the Poor track the evolution of their case from 2011 to the present day here .

Ministerial exception maintained with regard to Catholic schools
On Wednesday, July 8, the court issued a ruling on a combination of two cases,  St. James School v. Biel  and  Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berrum , both schools in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. The decision maintained that California Catholic schools could not be sued for job discrimination in firing teachers.

The decision cited the “ministerial exception,” which asserts that church-sponsored schools, not a state authority, can determine conditions for employment within the context of the school’s mission and religious identity. For more details on the arguments made in favor of the exception, here is a recap from Catholic News Service . Fr. Matt Malone, SJ, offered a perspective in America magazine on responsibilities related to exercising ministerial exception.
Take Action on Immigrant Children and Families in Detention
  1. Sign the petition to #FreetheFamilies
  2. Learn more about the four families currently held at the detention center in Pennsylvania and prepare for an upcoming day of action. Register here for a webinar on Thursday, July 9, 7 p.m., hosted by the Shut Down Berks Coalition.
  3. See the list of Free Our Families virtual and in-person activities slated for Friday, July 17, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., at this Facebook event page. CMSM's Justice and Peace Fellow will be participating at the on-site (socially distanced and masked) action. If you would like to coordinate presence at the event, please email Bethany at
Take Action on the Next Coronavirus Relief Package to Protect Immigrants
The USCCB migration policy team has outlined five migration-related requests for the COVID-19 Package 4 currently being slated for a late July release. Contact your senators today and ask them to include the following in the next relief act:

  • Testing and treatment for COVID-19 must be available to all
  • Provide access to individual rebates (cash payments) to those who file taxes with an ITIN
  • Include automatic extension of work authorization and visas (including for DACA)
  • Place restrictions on immigration detention and enforcement
  • Halt implementation of the “public charge” rule

To see the explanation and details for each item, visit the Justice for Immigrants page here . For a sample letter to send to your senator, click here .
Homily Resources


Bethany Welch, Ph.D. , CMSM Fellow for Justice and Peace