The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is the episcopal conference of the Catholic Church in the United States. Founded in 1966 as the joint National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and United States Catholic Conference (USCC), it is composed of all active and retired members of the Catholic hierarchy (i.e., diocesan, coadjutor, and auxiliary bishops and the ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter) in the United States and the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands. In the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the bishops in the six dioceses form their own episcopal conference, the Puerto Rican Episcopal Conference. The bishops in U.S. insular areas in the Pacific Ocean – the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the territory of American Samoa, and the territory of Guam – are members of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific.
|Legal status||Civil nonprofit|
|Active and retired Catholic bishops of the United States|
|José Horacio Gómez|
The USCCB adopted its current name in July 2001. The organization is a registered corporation based in Washington, D.C. As with all bishops' conferences, certain[which?] decisions and acts of the USCCB must receive the recognitio, or approval, of the Roman dicasteries, which are subject to the immediate and absolute authority of the Pope.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops took its present form in 2001 from the consolidation of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United States Catholic Conference. The USCCB traces its origins to the National Catholic War Council, which was founded in 1917.
The first national organization of Catholic bishops in the United States was founded in 1917 as the National Catholic War Council (NCWC), formed to enable U.S. Catholics to contribute funds for the spiritual care of Catholic servicemen during World War I.
In 1919 Pope Benedict XV urged the college of bishops around the world to assist him in promoting the labor reforms first articulated by Pope Leo XIII in Rerum novarum. In response, the U.S. Catholic episcopate organized the National Catholic Welfare Council in 1919. They also created the first Administrative Committee of seven members to manage daily affairs between plenary meetings, with archbishop Edward Joseph Hanna of San Francisco as the first chairman. Headquarters were established in Washington, D.C.
After a threatened suppression of the National Catholic Welfare Council due to concerns that it over-centralized power away from the individual bishops, the administrative board decided to rename the organization to be the National Catholic Welfare Conference, with the purpose of advocating reforms in education, immigration, and social action.
In 2017, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, the chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, issued a statement strongly disagreeing with the first Trump travel ban, Executive Order 13769, which restricted people from several predominantly Muslim nations from entering the US and also imposed a temporary ban on Syrian refugee admissions. Later that year, the USCCB president, vice president, and committee chairmen issued a statement condemning the Trump administration's cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, under which nearly 800,000 young people had applied for protection from deportation.
At the 2018 biannual meeting that was held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USCCB president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo issued a statement criticizing the Trump administration's policies of family separation and of denying asylum to women fleeing domestic violence.
After some conservative bishops were concerned after Gómez congratulated Joe Biden for his election as US president, Gómez announced that he would form a working group to address the "confusion" that could be caused by Catholic politicians who support policies that are against church teaching. On January 20, 2021, the date of President Joe Biden's inauguration, when he became the second Roman Catholic U.S. president, the USCCB sent him a letter authored by President Gómez, which was described as "stinging" by America. While congratulating Biden on his election and stating the Bishop was "praying that God grant him wisdom and courage to lead this great nation and that God help him to meet the tests of these times," the letter also expressed concern that his policies "would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences."
The letter was contested by several bishops, including Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, who said the message was drafted without consultation of the USCCB's administrative committee; and described it as an "institutional failure" that the bishops did not harmonize their message prior to its release. In what America called a "rare rebuke," Cupich released two statements, one of which said “Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an ill-considered statement on the day of President Biden’s inauguration. Aside from the fact that there is seemingly no precedent for doing so, the statement, critical of President Biden, came as a surprise to many bishops, who received it just hours before it was released.”
By April 2021, the working group that was announced by Gómez proposed the drafting of a new document addressing the issue of Communion. On March 30, 2021, Bishop Gómez wrote to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), informing the congregation of the USCCB's plans to draft a document regarding Catholic politicians' worthiness to receive Communion. Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the CDF, replied on 7 May, cautioning the USCCB to preserve unity in discussing anti-abortion issues and not to consider that abortion and euthanasia constitute the only grave issues of Catholic moral teaching. Ladaria further said that any new provision of the USCCB is required to respect the rights of individual Ordinaries in their diocese and the prerogatives of the Holy See.
The dioceses of the United States are grouped into fifteen regions. Fourteen of the regions (numbered I through XIV) are geographically based, for the Latin Catholic dioceses and the non-territorial Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (part of Region X). The Eastern Catholic eparchies (dioceses) constitute Region XV.
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops had appointed Bishop James T. McHugh during April 1967 to lead the early formation of what was later to become the National Right to Life Committee. The NRLC was itself formed in 1968 under the auspices of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops to coordinate information and strategy between developing local and state Catholic anti-abortion groups and is the oldest and the largest national organization against legal abortion in the United States with NRLC affiliates in all 50 states and over 3,000 local chapters nationwide. These NRLC affiliate groups were forming in response to efforts to change abortion laws based on model legislation proposed by the American Law Institute (ALI). New Jersey attorney Juan Ryan served as the organization's first president. NRLC held a nationwide meeting of anti-abortion leaders in Chicago in 1970 at Barat College. The following year, NRLC held its first convention at Macalestar College in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The USCCB are issuing the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services" that have in some cases caused doctors to refuse treatment of patients although in an emergency situation.
In March 2012, regarding the contraception mandate issued as a regulation under the Affordable Care Act, which required that employers who do not support contraception but are not religious institutions per se must cover contraception via their employer-sponsored health insurance. USCCB decided to "continue its 'vigorous opposition to this unjust and illegal mandate'".
In June and July 2012, the USCCB promoted a campaign of events called the Fortnight for Freedom to protest government activities that in their view impinged on their religious liberty.
On June 12, 2020, a committee praised President Donald Trump's administration for changing a Department of Health and Human Services ruling regarding discrimination based on gender identity, saying it "will help restore the rights of health care providers—as well as insurers and employers—who decline to perform or cover abortions or 'gender transition' procedures due to ethical or professional objections."
The budget for 2018 was $200 million USD. Most money is raised through national collections, government grants, and diocesan assessments.
Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, writes to US Bishops urging them to preserve unity amid discussions on anti-abortion issues. He notes that it would be misleading if the impression were given that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching.
The Vatican's top enforcer of doctrine has sent a warning to U.S. bishops about a potential proposal by some conservative clergy to deny communion to Catholic elected officials who support legislation allowing abortion.