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Sr. Carol on New Poverty Numbers


Sr. Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association, knows more about, and has done more to alleviate, the causes of poverty than almost anyone I know, especially how poverty affects, and is affected by, health care costs.

Yesterday, she issued the following statement on the shocking new numbers from the Census Bureau about the nation's poverty rate.

Here is the text of her statement:

Today we learned from the U.S. Census Bureau that 49.9 million Americans were uninsured in 2010, a number that continues to be intolerably high but which would likely reflect even greater hardship without help offered by the Affordable Care Act.
As the economy challenges struggling, middle-class families and those who have been trying to find stable employment with meaningful health coverage, 46.2 million people were in poverty last year, a marked increase from 43.6 million in 2009, according to the Census Bureau’s annual report on poverty, income and health insurance coverage.

Shame on SNAP's Lawyers


Let me stipulate that if you were sexually abused as a child, by a cleric or an uncle or a neighbor, you are allowed to be angry for the rest of your life. You are allowed to make inflammatory statements. You are allowed to pursue justice in whatever venue you wish. You are allowed to hate any institution that failed to take action against the perpetrator of the horrific crime. That is why this post is not entitled “Shame on SNAP.”

The lawyers for SNAP, however, have no such morally righteous indignation, nor does the press corps that covers them. The decision to seek the intervention of the International Criminal Court in the matter of clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church is outrageous. It is an outrage against the Church. It is an outrage against the victims. And, it is an outrage against those victims the ICC was established to defend.

Update on Conscience Protections


The Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Health & Human Services has a post up at the agency's website, renewing the call for comments on the conscience protections regarding the mandated care provisions of the Affordable Care Act. It is hard to imagine why anyone at HHS would call attention to the comment period unless they were planning on strengthening the conscience portection language.

How narrow is the language in the original proposal? In a devilishly clever post at the USCCB website, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh points out that Jesus Himself would not have qualified for conscience protections under the proposed language.

Through the Looking Glass


Is it just me, or does watching a GOP presidential debate make you feel like the Mad Hatter is going to jump onto the stage at any moment?

There was the chilling moment when Wolf Blitzer posed a hypothetical to Ron Paul about the extent to which he would take his libertarian philosophy. Blitzer asked what should be done in the case of a 30-year old man who lacks health insurance and who, through some tragedy, finds himself in the hospital in a coma. Who pays for his coverage. Blitzer finished his query by asking, “Are you saying society should just let him die?” Several people in the audience shouted out “Yeah!” Last week, it was applause for the death penalty. Now, for letting someone die because they lack insurance. There is something very creepy going on here. To his credit, Congressman Paul did not join the death chant but insisted a hospital should treat the man, and that private charities would find ways to pay for the bill. That may be unrealistic, but at least it was not inhumane.

Time for a New National Hymn


Yesterday, at the close of the Mass commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we sang the national hymn, "God of our Fathers." The tune is not bad, except for the trumpet intro which gives it a harsh militaristic overtone.

But, the song is rarely sung and it does not speak to the religious sensibilities that have long characterized the American people. There is a better alternative, one that concluded the ceremony at the Kennedy Center: Amazing Grace. This hymn is the most frequently sung at funerals. This hymn is the most frequently sung at national prayer services. It functions are our national hymn de facto.

The only other competition would be the Battle Hymn of the Republic, but that should be our National Anthem.

Secular Impoverishment


The Concert Hall at the Kennedy Center is a lovely room but it was entirely unsuitable as a venue for last night's service marking the anniversary of 9/11. The event was originally scheduled for the Washington National Cathedral, but that building was damaged first by the earthquake and then, during a thunderstorm, when a crane repairing the original damage collapsed.

The change of venue affected the entire proceeding. In a cathedral, the singers would have appeared to be offering their music in prayer. On a concert hall stage, they appeared to be performers, and performance is not appropriate at such a time. The President would have delivered his words, which were very fine, from a pulpit, not from a podium that might have been used at the Oscars. The only redeeming moment was when one of the speakers quoted Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete!

Dark Thoughts on 9/11


Earlier this summer, when conducting interviews for an article about 9/11, I realized that no matter how I began the interviews, no matter what question I asked, the first thing everyone did was tell me exactly what they had been doing that morning, who told them the news, where they watched the unfolding horror and with whom. 9/11, the most public act of hatred in our times, was experienced in a deeply personal way.

Yesterday, at the various services of commemoration, there was much talk of resilience. This talk is not misplaced but neither is it the whole story. For me, that day remains a dark day with mostly dark lessons, and so do the ten years since. Here are those memories and those lessons.

Wise Words on 9/11


The Holy Father sent a telegram to Archbishop Dolan and the Church in the U.S. on the anniversary of 9/11. And, at an event here in Washington on Thursday night, Leon Weiseltier, literary editor of the New Republic, offered his reflections on the anniversary. Both men produced wise words and I print them here:

To my Venerable Brother
The Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

On this day my thoughts turn to the somber events of September 11, 2001, when so many innocent lives were lost in the brutal assault on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the further attacks in Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. I join you in commending the thousands of victims to the infinite mercy of Almighty God and in asking our heavenly Father to continue to console those who mourn the loss of loved ones.


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February 12-25, 2016


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