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Most Americans like the new health care law, side with Democrats on tax issues

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It's welcomed news that most Americans have not lost their minds on two major political issues facing the nation. A post-election McClatchy poll finds that a majority of Americans want Congress to keep the new health care law or actually expand it, despite Republican claims that they have a mandate from the people to kill it.

The post-election survey showed that 51 percent of registered voters want to keep the law or change it to do more, while 44 percent want to change it to do less or repeal it altogether.

Driving support for the law: Voters by margins of 2-1 or greater want to keep some of its best-known benefits, such as barring insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. One thing they don’t like: the mandate that everyone must buy insurance.

At the same time, the survey showed that a majority of voters side with the Democrats on another hot-button issue, extending the Bush era tax cuts that are set to expire Dec. 31 only for families making less than $250,000.

Pink slip as wedding gift?

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It's these kinds of stories that scare gay and lesbian people who work for Catholic institutions.

Last month Laine Tadlock, director of the education program at Benedictine University in Springfield, retired under pressure after the publication of a wedding announcement about Tadlock's marriage to her partner, Kae Helstrom. They were married in Iowa.

The university insists she was not fired, and was offered another position, which Tadlock did not accept. Yet, in a statement, they confirm that negative reaction to the public wedding announcement forced them to act.

"It was not Tadlock’s orientation, but rather the public disregard for fundamental Catholic beliefs which was the basis for the university’s decisions. These decisions were made only after full discussion with the appropriate diocesan officials," the statement said.

The Condom Conundrum

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We’re seeing as good a sideshow as Catholicism produces. According to Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press, many “prominent conservative Roman Catholics in the U.S.” are questioning the Vatican’s own explanation of what Pope Benedict said about condoms in a new book, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.

As best anyone can decipher, the Pope approves of the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and thus save lives. (I’ve always thought that this is an obvious “pro-life” position). But apparently, several of the most orthodox Catholics who have been bad-mouthing condoms for any reason – even to save lives –await a formal papal statement. Some have even questioned whether the Vatican spokesperson, Rev. Frederico Lombardi, accurately interpreted the papal position.

In an ironic twist, Jon O’Brien of Catholics for Choice welcomed the statement. In fact, I think his statement is perhaps the first time I have ever seen his organization praise something the Pope has said!

Thanksgiving with Native Americans

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This Thanksgiving on Interfaith Voices, we decided not to focus on the story of the Puritans. Instead, we explored the faith of the Wampanoag People, the Native Americans who were already living in New England when the Puritans arrived. Our guests were two Native American women: Ramona Peters who is Wampanoag herself, and Clara Sue Kidwell, who traces her heritage to the Choctaw and Chippewa peoples.

Both described a Native American spirituality that celebrated nature in all its movement, beauty and bounty. Native peoples, they said, do not see themselves (as the Puritans did) as submitting to the will of an all-powerful God, but as responsible participants in a spiritual world where their actions matter, for good or for ill. Those of us who treasure our natural environment could learn a lot from that perspective.

Especially noteworthy is the fact that the Wampanoag People treated the Puritans with great religious tolerance, but the Puritans – who came to North America seeking religious freedom for themselves – did not treat the Wampanoag People with similar tolerance.

Add meaning to your Christmas card wishes

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Want to add more meaning to this Christmas season? Want to help a prison ministry with each Christmas card you pen? Consider supporting the Christmas card project, a ministry of the capable and caring Mercy Sister Camille D’Arienzo.

Many Catholics are already familiar with D’Arienzo. Writer, teacher, radio commentator, former Leadership Conference of Women Religious president, she is also founder of the anti-death penalty group, Cherish Life Circle. The group is perhaps best known for its Declaration of Life.

Peoria diocese drops Archbishop Fulton Sheen canonization process

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Although the Diocese of Peoria has dropped its nine-year crusade to get sainthood for Fulton Sheen, efforts to have the El Paso-born evangelist canonized will continue.

"We're very positive this is going to get resolved," Monsignor Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation, said Tuesday. "It's a matter of negotiations; a matter of discernment."

Earlier this month, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky suspended the local effort. His official statement said this was done "with great sadness and disappointment," and he hoped the Archdiocese of New York would pick up the cause. As yet, there is no official word if that will happen.

"Bishop Jenky is kind of calling the question," Deptula said.
And the question is where the potential saint's body will spend the rest of eternity.

Let's be thankful for reasonableness

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This year, I am particularly thankful for reasonableness.

A political season has just ended, a season enveloped with fear and anxiety, and the lack of reasonable debate that often brings. To me, this group blog has stayed a pretty steady course -- I've always read more light than heat in the words others contribute here. Different places on the web -- not so much.

But these are anxious times; anxiety and reasonableness rarely function together. Still, there are signs of hope that a political class facing stubborn problems will rise above itself: Speaker-to-be John Boehner has struck a mostly steady chord since the election; yesterday in Kokomo, Indiana, President Obama shelved the rhetoric of the mid-term campaign and returned to a style closer to 2008.

The Silence of the Yams (or How to eat and stay alive)

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I took a short cut through Barnes & Noble ‘s last week, the one across the lobby from the best theater in Los Angeles, to get to the parking garage. Actually, it was really my regular detour. I love to browse the new releases. But it was a small book on the paperback table that chose me: “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” by Michael Pollan. I bought it to read on my flight to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving.

Pollan, a journalist turned food detective and defender, was one of the experts who contributed to the excellent and worrisome 2008 documentary “Food, Inc.” He also wrote “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, “In Defense of Food” and others that explore the food industrial complex and the consequences of genetic manipulation of food and eating what passes for food in America.

The Benefits of Benedict's Fretting

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Having driven ourselves into a societal frenzy, America in its infinite capacity for seizing opportunity has created an industry for stress reduction. The ideal is to avoid worry. Alfred E. Newman "What Me Worry" is our stiff-upper-lip aim.

But worry has its uses, as Pope Benedict has illustrated in his whatever-it-means statements about condom use. It shows that the pope is worried about a cluster of issues around sexuality, issues that have presumably been as unbudgeable as items in a vault.

That speaks to the humanity and sweeping intelligence of Benedict. Perhaps the same kind of fretting has troubled previous popes in secret, but he has made his quandary public and therefore opened a window into a sanctuary that has seemed so immutable and impervious to change.

The reality of that worry -- and the implication it carries that settled doctrine isn't so settled after all -- provides encouragement to the recently sainted Cardinal Newman who believed that doctrine developed over time through an agency that was subject to error and distortion.

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In This Issue

August 28-September 10, 2015

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