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Catholic Charities head says U.S. health system causes poverty

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WASHINGTON -- Fr. Larry Snyder, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, said the U.S. health care system needs to be fixed because it has become "an underlying cause for the proliferation of poverty in America."

He linked health care reform to the fight against poverty in a statement released Feb. 25 as President Obama and other top government officials held a seven-hour bipartisan summit on health care reform with leading Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

As the legislators and administration officials were meeting on the issue, he said, "it is essential that they recognize the implications of inaction."

The burdens of health care costs are "pushing a new generation of Americans into poverty," he said.

He urged the leaders to "recognize the moral imperative of addressing the need for affordability and accessibility of health care that respects the dignity of life."

"CCUSA believes the call for health care reform represents a national moral crisis, but recognizes that the nation's poor are living this reality as an economic crisis," he said.

Health care: a comedy of errors?

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I often chuckle out loud at some of the statements made in the current health care debate. Even yesterday, when the discussion at the “Health Care Summit” was at least civil, some Republicans continued to repeat their best laugh lines. For example, they talked about a “government take-over of health care.” As someone who wishes the government would indeed “take over” health insurance with a single payer system, I just laugh out loud when I think about the bill they call a “government takeover.”

And then there are the comic props. Like the 2,000-plus pages stacked on top of each other, as if one could do comprehensive reform in an abbreviated form.

But at the heart of all this debate is the quest for the common good. That’s a top value in the Catholic moral tradition, and many others. It means -- among other things -- concern for those with pre-existing conditions who can’t get insurance, for those summarily dropped by profit-gouging insurance companies when they get too sick, and for the 30 million-plus who have no insurance at all.

On Refraining From Going Overboard with Religion

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The term "religious fanatic" can be applied to anyone whose strength of belief is distasteful to others. One person's saint is another's pariah.

So far as I'm aware, the term is used exclusively as an accusation, a derisive means of saying that the believer has gone too far. As such, they are thought to be at the least liable to twist your arm to win you to their convictions or to be dangerous. Some labeled as such have, in fact, done such things.

But in a society like America, where a person's religion isn't supposed to stick out too much lest it upsets the egalitarian ideal, someone can be called a fanatic simply for taking religion seriously. Those who take St. Francis or Gandhi or Mohammed as role models stand a good chance of being shoved to the margins of society because they don't know when to stop being religious, unlike most citizens who know when to quit in a pragmatic sort of way.

Death by design: border crossers dying in greater numbers

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The Rev. John Fife, an immigrants' rights activist based in Tucson, Ariz., calls it "death by design." He's referring to the policy by immigration officials of sealing off traditional border crossing areas, leaving immigrants with no choice but to cross from Mexico into the United States in the most dangerous of areas. Fife's long-held observation has proven right once again. People forced to cross the border through mountains, canyons and other lethal areas are dying in ever greater numbers.

A new report from the Tucson-based Coalicion de Derechos Humanos indicates a dramatic increase in the number of human remains recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border. Between Oct. 1, 2009, and Jan. 31, 2010, the remains of 61 people have been recovered. This is a dramatic increase over the same period a year ago, when the total of recovered remains was 45. This year's count includes 40 males, four females and 17 individuals of unknown gender.

According to the Derechos Humanos press release:

Feb. 26, Bl. Robert Drury, Priest, Martyr

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Today is the feast of Bl. Robert Drury, a priest who was martyred at Tyburn in 1607.

Robert Drury was born in Buckinghamshire c.1567. He went to Rheims to study for the priesthood and then to Valladolid. In 1593, he was ordained and returned to England.

He ministered in secret in London for a number of years, often staying at a safe house where St. Anne Line (whose feast day is tomorrow) sheltered priests.

Berrigan gives advice to the next generation of activists

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As a younger person interested in trying to live a life of witness to the Gospel, there are some experienced heroes and heroines I would love the chance to talk with - to hear their stories and advice for ways to make it through the hard times. None more so than Daniel Berrigan, the Jesuit priest who became famous (or infamous) for his witness burning the files of a draft office in Cantonsville with eight others in 1968.

To my envy Jenn Svetlik over at Sojourners Magazine recently had that chance. In an interview with Berrigan in their current issue, Svetlik touches upon his life, his understanding of community, and his advice to younger people.

Here's my favorite snippet from Berrigan:

Scientology investigates the investigators

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Tip 'o the hat to the Religion News service blog for this one:

A church hiring journalists to investigate a newspaper?

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reported on Monday that the Church of Scientology has hired three prize-winning journalist to go sleuthing in the St. Pete Times after the paper published a scathing multi-part series on the religion's leaders last summer.

Neil Brown, the Times' executive editor, told Kurtz that he "couldn't take this request very seriously because its a study bought and paid for by the Church of Scientology."

Brown also said that he's "surprised and disappointed that journalists who I understand to have an extensive background in investigative reporting would think it's appropriate to ask me or our news organization to talk about that reporting while (a) it's ongoing, and (b) while they're being paid to ask these questions by the very subjects of our reporting."

Read more here.

The health care summit

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Like many other places, I am sure, our office TV is set on the White House Health Care Summit. As the president and congressional leaders jockey for position, CNN has very interesting polling data:

Washington (CNN) – Although the overall health care reform bills passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate are unpopular, many of the provisions in the existing bills are extremely popular, even among Republicans, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday also indicates that only a quarter of the public want Congress to stop all work on health care, with nearly three quarters saying lawmakers should pass some kind of reform.

It seems to me that the bottom line is that the majority of Americans want the health care system reformed. That really is the consensus.

The desire for reform has been thwarted by partisan politics. That is what this summit has to overcome, but at noon central time, there isn't much evidence that is happening. At least not on TV.

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