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The Compromise in the Senate

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The focus of many Catholics has been on the debate over abortion coverage in the new health care reform bill. But, with the failure of the Nelson-Hatch amendment yesterday, that debate goes behind closed doors, either in the Senate or in the Conference Committee that will meet to reconcile the Senate bill with the one passed in the House earlier. Moving to the forefront of the public debate is a new compromise worked out by a group of moderate and liberal Democratic senators about the role of a public option in the reforms.

Essentially, the Senate is poised to set up something akin to the Federal employees health benefits system. The government will assemble a range of private and non-profit plans, negotiating with the insurance companies to lower costs. This is not the full-throttled public option that liberals sought. In exchange for their support, moderates agreed to allow people over 55 to buy-in to Medicare, which is a government-run program but one which Republicans have a hard time attacking because it is very popular with voters.

CNN to ponder faith and money

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I’m in New York this week, with part of the agenda being to tape a panel discussion for an upcoming CNN special on “Faith and Money.” The program is hosted by Christine Romans, and is scheduled to air on Dec. 19. (Coincidentally, that’s the last day of Hanukkah this year.)

I don't identify money management as a self-standing trend in The Future Church, but it's hard to imagine much of a future for any religious enterprise if it's broke. As the saying goes, the love of money may be the root of all evil ... but you sure do miss the money when it's gone.

tThe CNN program covers a vast range of topics, from the economics of Mega-churches (a segment driven by an interview with Joel Osteen) to the effect of church money on American politics. I was part of a panel devoted to trying to gauge the impact of the economic crisis on religious groups around the country.

tWithout stealing the show’s thunder, I can briefly summarize three points I tried to make:

An answer for global-warming skeptics

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Don't believe in global-warming? New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has a thought for you in a column titled: Going Cheney on Climate. He writes:

This is not complicated. We know that our planet is enveloped in a blanket of greenhouse gases that keep the Earth at a comfortable temperature. As we pump more carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases into that blanket from cars, buildings, agriculture, forests and industry, more heat gets trapped.

What we don’t know, because the climate system is so complex, is what other factors might over time compensate for that man-driven warming, or how rapidly temperatures might rise, melt more ice and raise sea levels. It’s all a game of odds. We’ve never been here before. We just know two things: one, the CO2 we put into the atmosphere stays there for many years, so it is “irreversible” in real-time (barring some feat of geo-engineering); and two, that CO2 buildup has the potential to unleash “catastrophic” warming.

Hope for the world's remaining forests

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Frances Beinecke is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. She filed this report from the Copenhagen U.N. Climate Conference about the probable progress on reducing deforestation in the world.

"When I attended the U. N. climate talks in Bali in 2007, I realized that while the stage-crafted plenary sessions on emissions targets are a critical part of these negotiations, the quieter, sideline debates over specific details like financing or verifying reductions are just as important.

I expect the same will be true in Copenhagen. Negotiators will reach agreement on several key issues, and in turn, these agreements will become the building blocks of the final international treaty that will be signed in the coming months.

I believe one of those agreements will be about how to solve the crisis of deforestation--the source of 15 percent of the world’s global warming pollution. There are huge swaths of tropical forest in Africa, Asia, and South America that could continue to act as critical carbon sinks--but only if the financial incentives and the market values shift toward preserving forests rather than depleting them.

Single-issue bishops

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As landmark healthcare legislation makes it slow way through Congress, the U.S. Catholic bishops are in danger of finding themselves on the sidelines of history, regarded as a single-issue constituency with no view toward the greater good.

That's a growing view among many Catholic writers -- expressed clearly in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times by columnist Tim Rutten, a Catholic. Rutten joins an evolving chorus of voices who note that the bishops have the influence to help push through a change in public policy they have sought for decades: universal health care coverage. Instead, they have become enmeshed in abortion politics, threatening to undermine a bill that would help ten of millions.

Rutten quotes Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lt. Governor of Maryland, who spoke out on Tuesday: "As Catholics, are we so laser-focused on the issue of abortion that we are willing to join the 'tea-partyers' and the like to bring down the healthcare reform bill? And at the enormous expense of million of Americans who suffer every day" without healthcare?

Dec. 9, St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

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Beloved Juan Diego, "the talking eagle"! Show us the way that leads to the "Dark Virgin" of Tepeyac, that she may receive us in the depths of her heart, for she is the loving, compassionate Mother who guides us to the true God. Amen.

--from the homily by Pope John Paul II at the canonization of Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

"The miraculous image, which is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, shows a woman with native features and dress. She is supported by an angel whose wings are reminiscent of one of the major gods of the traditional religion of that area. The moon is beneath her feet and her blue mantle is covered with gold stars. The black girdle about her waist signifies that she is pregnant."

--from the Vatican's http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20020731_juan-diego_en.html> biography of St. Juan Diego

Obama carries our hopes - and prayers - with him to Europe

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The global nature of our fragile human family is front stage this week as delegates at the Copenhagen Climate Change conference rush now to come up with a document that will find a pathway to stave off the carbon emissions that threaten the future of the planet.

President Obama will appear at the conference on its last day, hopefully to place his signature on a document that achieves this aim. It is hardly clear this critically necessary document will emerge in time from the conference.

Pressure building for climate change script

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In Copenhagen, hundreds of government functionaries awoke on Wednesday feeling the rising pressure of a weekend deadline to hash out a realistic draft of a new climate agreement.

The pressure is rising
because the drafts need to be in decent shape before top ministers arrive to prepare for their bosses, including more than 100 heads of state, scheduled to close out the negotiations on Dec. 18.

Where is Senator Casey?

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Sen. Bob Casey is a hero to pro-life Democrats. Standing at the podium of the Democratic National Convention last summer, a podium that had been denied to his father, Casey spoke for the hopes of many progressive Catholics who are deeply committed to the Church’s social justice tradition, and see the Democratic Party’s platform as embodying that tradition, but who felt the Democrats got it wrong when they decided to exclude the unborn from their list of those whose cause deserved a champion. We knew we were not in the majority of the party, but at least we knew we had a seat at the table. Casey would be our spokesman.

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