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USCCB Statement on Health Care Law

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The USCCB has issued a statement, approved unanimously by their administrative committee which met in Washington today, on the health care reform bill that President Barack Obama signed into law today. In a word, the statement is balanced.

The bishops’ statement begins with praise for those parts of the law that extend coverage to millions of previously uninsured Americans. They are almost fulsome in their commendations for the effort to provide universal coverage: “We are bishops, and therefore pastors and teachers. In that role, we applaud the effort to expand health care to all.”

Haiti & mental health challenges

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"Clearly, mental health has never been a priority in this country [Haiti]."

In early February 2010, I wrote a column on the post-earthquake mental health challenges for Haitians."

The next day The Wall Street Journal reported on the pending revamp of the U.S. manual on mental health, which could dramatically impact the delivery of mental health services in the U.S.

Saturday's New York Times carries a jarring story about the state of psychiatric care in Haiti.

Bill Donohue on the New Sex Abuse Report

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Bill Donohue of the Catholic League consistently promotes the notion that the clergy sex abuse crisis is about gays in the priesthood. He does so again today, using the "audit" of compliance with the bishops' charter to buttress his claim.

Here's Donohue: "...as we have seen from several studies—including the one just released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—80 percent of the victims are male. Just as important, the majority of the victims are post-pubescent. In other words, we are talking about homosexuality, not pedophilia."

In fact, as the report released today clearly demonstrates, more than 70 percent of the abuse claims filed in 2009 involved children younger than 14; just 25 percent involved children over age 15. (See page 37 of the report.) These findings are consistent with previous studies.

Bishops' Statement on Health Care Expected Soon

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Most everyone, it seems, has a view of the health care bill President Obama will sign today -- except the US Bishops. That will likely change today or tomorrow. The bishops' administrative committee is meeting in Washington and word is that a statement on the bill is forthcoming.

Meanwhile, one of their colleagues, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput offers his view in the diocesan newspaper regular column. It is a "bad bill," writes Chaput, and a process "in which self-described 'Catholic' groups have done a serious disservice to justice, to the Church, and to the ethical needs of the American people by undercutting the leadership and witness of their own bishops."

A Resurrection

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A year ago this Easter, I traveled to Italy and met the Great Mystery of My Family. It came not a moment too soon.

The mystery's name is Aneillo, and he is my uncle – my mother's brother who I had never met, and who she had only seen once in her life, in a trip to Italy she made more than twenty years ago. He was the brother who had been left behind.

Network deserves credit for health care reform

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Network, along with the Catholic Health Association, can take real credit for health care reform. On Sunday, I had the opportunity to talk to Sr. Simone Campbell, the Executive Director of NETWORK. She is the author of the letter, signed by the leadership of American nuns, advocating a vote for health care reform legislation without the highly restrictive anti-abortion language (the original Stupak language) that the bishops wanted. Like the Catholic Health Association, these nuns believed that the anti-abortion provisions in the Senate version of the bill preserved the status quo (i.e., no federal funding for abortion), and took a courageous stand that disagreed publicly with the bishops.

Sr. Simone told me that she gathered the signatures in only 48 hours, and then hand-delivered the letters to offices on the Hill. In several places, she said, the response was gratitude and even relief, with expressions like “…this is just what we need.”

Mar. 23, ??????? ????

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Today is the feast of St. Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès, (1832-1914), a Lebanese Maronite nun.

Rafqa was born in a village near Bikfaya, Lebanon. Her mother died when she was seven, and four years later, her father sent her to Damascus to work as a servant.

She returned home at the age of fifteen. She was unwilling to marry the relatives her stepmother and her aunt selected for her, and in 1859 she entered the Mariamette convent in Bikfaya. She taught in the order's schools until 1871, when "a crisis in the congregation" caused her to transfer to the Lebanese Maronite Order.

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July 18-31, 2014

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