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Pope writes to Irish Catholics

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Here's a quck round up of reports on Pope Benedict's pastoral letter to Irish Catholics issued this morning. NCR senior correspondent John Allen called the letter Benedict's "most comprehensive statement yet on the sexual abuse crisis."

From the Associated Press:

Asked why there were no punitive provisions contained in the letter, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi noted that the letter was pastoral, not administrative or disciplinary in nature, and that any further measures concerning resignations would be taken by the competent Vatican offices.

Benedict's letter addressed only the scandal in Ireland, not the other cases of abuse which have recently come to light in other countries across Europe, including in the pope's native Germany.

Lombardi acknowledged the other cases but said the Irish scandal was unique in its scope and in what the Vatican has already done, noting that the pontiff last month met with Ireland's bishops. But he said that obviously the letter could be read to apply to other countries and individuals.

Obama and Common Good

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President Obama held a rally for health care reform today at George Mason University in Virginia. The most compelling part of his message was -- for me, at least -- his appeal to the moral issue of ensuring the common good.

"It's a debate that is not only about the cost of health care," he said. "It's a debate about the character of our country -- about whether we can still meet the challenges of our time; whether we still have the guts and the courage to give every citizen, not just some, the chance to reach their dreams."

That’s the gut of the issue… deciding that we as a society will provide everyone, rich or poor, old or young… with the health care they need. It’s a vision of the common good, something integral to the Catholic tradition, and many other faith traditions as well.

Stupak Still in Negotiations

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According to a report at Politico.com, negotiations between the House leadership and Congressman Bart Stupak are still on-going. While it looks increasingly like the Speaker will whip up the necessary votes for the measure, the report says that they want the dozen or so members committed to the Stupak approach to abortion restrictions on board.

I have never doubted that if push comes to shove, Speaker Pelosi would throw her pro-choice allies under the bus if that was what was needed to pass the bill. She did as much in November. But, this raises an interesting specter for pro-health care forces. Will they be willing to jettison their commitment to abortion rights in order to pass the health care bill?

Abortion Rates and Universal Health Care

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"Among the most nettlesome obstacles in the yearlong debate over increasing the accessibility and affordability of health insurance has been the question of what effect health care reform legislation would have on the incidence of abortion."

Thus begins Dr. Patrick Whelan's discussion of a study of the Massachusetts health insurance program, Commonwealth Care, upon which the Senate's health care reform bill draws. The study was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine

Whelan's conclusion: "The recent experience in Massachusetts suggests that universal health care coverage has been associated with a decrease in the number of abortions performed."

Read more.

Whelan is on the pediatrics faculty at Harvard Medical School and is a pediatric rheumatology specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston. He is also a member of the NCR board of directors.

Battle Lines Being Drawn: Archbishop Chaput on Catholic Support for Health Bill

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Writes Archbishop Charles Chaput on the First Things website today: "If the defective Senate version of health-care reform pushed by congressional leaders passes into law—against the will of the American people and burdened by serious moral problems in its content—we’ll have 'Catholic' voices partly to thank for it. And to hold responsible" [emphasis added].

You can find the entire piece here.

Where Catholic Women are Heard -- and Not

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The latest "Room for Debate" in the New York Times pays an indirect tribute to the National Catholic Reporter.

All five of those asked to comment on what the Vatican should do about clerical sexual abuse of children are men.

Every one of them is worthy. Each has something valuable to say. By not including a single woman in the mix, however, the Timesreflects a widespread absence of women's voices in the media's coverage of critical church debates.

Excluding women from official church councils has, of course, been standard practice in the hierarchy's exercise of rule. When the Vatican decided to investigate American nuns, for example, nuns weren't consulted in any formal sense. It was done, as usual, by fiat.

For the mainstream media largely to repeat this pattern of neglect has been irresponsible, lending credibility to a bias against women (my interpretation) and furthering it. Occasionally women are asked to join in, but not nearly often enough.

Church investigators can't be trusted

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Barbara Blaine of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) writes on the Ms.Blog the church should not be allowed to conduct an investigation into sex abuse allegations by clergy. She says church investigators can't be trusted.

Commentators use phrases like “tsunami” and “wildfire” to describe the Catholic sex abuse and cover-up crisis that is engulfing Europe right now. While the imagery is somewhat helpful, it obscures the origins of the scandal. Thousands of lives were not devastated by some unforeseen and unstoppable natural phenomenon; they were permanently scarred as the result of decades of deliberate and ongoing secrecy, recklessness and deceit by the self-serving Catholic church hierarchy.

Read More.

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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