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Health Care: Make the Deal!

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President Obama has signaled to the leaders of Congress that they should do what it takes to close the deal with moderate Senators on health care reform. Already this has meant throwing the public option overboard. A group of ten senators – five liberals and five moderates – crafted a compromise last week that ditched the public option but gave liberals some satisfaction by permitting a buy-in to Medicare for those over 55 who can’t get coverage elsewhere. The buy-in, too, appears to be on the chopping block now.

The President is right to push for a deal. The public option always has enjoyed more comment and concern than it deserved, a useful tool to drive down costs but not really a meaningful step towards a single-payer plan. The Medicare buy-in, on the other hand, is really a good idea. Democrats should let is go to pass the current bill, and then immediately begin campaigning on “Medicare for All.” Call it a reform of the reform. Make it a central part of their campaign for next year’s midterms. But, don’t let it get in the way of a deal now.

It's A Wonderful (Catholic Social Justice) Life

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I watched Frank Capra’s classic "It’s A Wonderful Life" on Saturday and it is no surprise that the film has even more resonance this year, as the country still struggles with recession and war.

The film famously flopped when it was first released in 1946. Usually, the reason given for its initial lack of success is a belief that the material was too dark for the American public. After a decade of Depression and half a decade of war, audiences weren’t eager to embrace a story about a guy contemplating killing himself on Christmas Eve.

The Ice Bear Project

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The Ice Bear Project was created by British sculptor Mark Coreth to give artistic form to the climate change affecting the polar ice caps. The life-sized Ice Bear is located in a public square in Copenhagen during the COP15 Climate Change Conference.

Delays at the Bella Center in Copenhagen and other matters

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Irish Columban Fr. Sean McDonagh sent this report from the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen on Tuesday, Dec. 15:

"During the first week of the U. N. climate change conference here in Copenhagen, it took about 10 to 15 minutes to clear security and enter the Bella Center where the conference is being held. The only exception was the first day, on Dec. 7, when chaos reigned.

Things deteriorated on Monday, Dec. 14. It was obvious during the final days of week one, that many more people had turned up for the conference than the authorities had planned for. During the weekend, the conference president, Connie Hedegaard, let it be known that there would be serious reductions on members from civil society entering the building during the second week. The way they decided to cut numbers was to demand a second card as a condition of entering the Bella Center. The chairs of the various sponsoring bodies spent the weekend trying to secure these new cards. As I am registered under Franciscans International, our chair, Sr. Odile Coirer, arranged to meet with us at the documentation desk at 11 o’clock on Monday morning.

European women religious send warm support to U.S. sisters

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A number of U.S. women religious in leadership positions have received the following letter, which originated at the Continental Assembly of European women religious earlier this month. U.S. women religious have already received words of support, during this trying time of an Apostolic Visitation, from women religious leaders in Rome and in Asia.

This new letter to the U.S. women reads as follows:

Dear Sisters,

These days of December 2009 the Continental Assembly of Europe has gathered for its annual meeting in Spain. Among us were the team from Rome, the European Continental team and the provincial teams of Europe, as well as the European representatives of the intercontinental Commissions Economy and of Justice and Peace.

Twin Cities sent no money to investigate women religious

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When we asked (See Few dioceses admit willingness to pay for visitation), the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, declined to answer, but Archbishop John C. Nienstedt has come clean to Catholics in his jurisdiction.

The question was: Did you send a contribution to the Vatican to help pay for its investigation of U.S. women religious?

"I gave not a penny of archdiocesan monies to this project," Nienstedt wrote in his newspaper, The Catholic Spirit, Dec. 3. (HT to reader Charles_MN).

Not that he's got anything against the apostolic visitation. It is not punitive, judgmental or demeaning. It is not an interrogation, not even an investigation, the archbishop writes. It is, he says, only an evaluation.

Dec. 15, St. Maria Crocifissa Di Rosa

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Today is the feast of St. Maria Crocifissa Di Rosa (1813-1855), who founded the Handmaids of Charity in 1836, when cholera struck Brescia.

"In the years immediately after the cholera epidemic, while carrying out works of charity involving: social outcasts, deaf and dumb girls, girls at risk, needy and exploited women, she came to a definite and conclusive decision with her friends: to look after and care for the sick in the town hospital."

Today, the work of the Handmaids of Charity "includes assistance for the elderly, for people with psychiatric problems, immigrants from outside the EU, for the treatment of people with AIDS and assistance in the re-integration into society of ex-prisoners and women who have been saved from a life on the streets. In these fragments of humanity which bear the greatest resemblance to Christ, every service carries the clear imprint of evangelical charity, compassion and human improvement."

Should Notre Dame allow a pro-choice football coach?

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The question is now apparently before us after Notre Dame's new football coach, Brian Kelly, was hired recently amid reports he might be "pro-choice." Yes, that's right a "pro-choice" football coach at Notre Dame.

Actually, I've been thinking about an aspect of this question for some years now. It started some time back when I began to wonder if Notre Dame's starting lineup, so visible on NBC, was entirely Catholic. I've suspected that some running backs might not know the Creed, but never pressed the issue. Notre Dame, I figured, would only recruit Catholics, and most likely, they'd already be leaning toward a pro-life take in the national abortion political debate.

It's a shame that Notre Dame can't simply recruit the best football players in the land, regardless of religion and politics. If they could, the team record might break out of its recent mediocre doldrum, they'd please the alum a bit more, and they would have a better chance of keeping their coaches more than a few years.

Bill Moyers: a thoughtful voice amid the din

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This commentary in the Los Angeles Times by author and media commentator Neal Gabler, is worth recognition and worth a few minutes of your time.

It begins with these words about Bill Moyers, whose voice -- and moral authority -- among us we have valued for decades:

It is a testament to how much Bill Moyers matters that this quiet, humble man can still stir passions. When he announced late last month he would be leaving his award-winning weekly PBS series, "Bill Moyers Journal," in April, some of us felt as if we were losing a sacred American institution, a repository of the nation's conscience, while others cheered. Right-wing bloviator Bill O'Reilly went so far as to boast that he had forced Moyers from the air -- a claim that was not only patently false but also a misconception of who Moyers is and what he does. Astonishing as it may be to anyone who has watched Moyers, his right-wing critics seem to see him as just another noisy shill among the army of blowhards, ideologues, demagogues and partisans on the airwaves. They couldn't be more wrong.

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