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What price have you paid for your faith?

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Today's "Morning Briefing" includes a link to an article in yesterday’s Washington Post about Fr. Miguel Lopez, a Mexican priest whose care of souls extends to a patch of that magnificently beautiful country that has been made exceptionally ugly by warring drug traffickers. I had to read the article twice it was so compelling. And, so humbling. What price have you or I had to really pay for our faith lately? This poor priest risks not only his life, but the life of his soul, confronting evil in one of its purer forms.

Corporate merger, Catholic-style

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The Catholic Knights and Catholic Family Life Insurance, two longtime Milwaukee-area fraternal organizations that offer life insurance, annuities and other financial products and benefits to members, said today they intend to merge.

The merger would result in a combined membership of 120,000, assets of more than $1.1 billion and about $4.8 billion of insurance in force. The merged organization, which will have a yet-to-be-determined new name, is to be headquartered in the 19-story Catholic Knights tower on Wells St. in Milwaukee.

Catholic Family, founded in 1868, was the first Catholic fraternal benefit organization established in the United States. Catholic Knights is 124 years old.

Pax Christi going to Honduras

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Just received a note from Pax Christi USA. Responding to requests from religious partners in Honduras, the Cahtolic peace group is organizing an "emergency religious delegation." Such international involvement lends protection to local groups of church workers and activists.

Pax Christi is looking for people to join the delegation. They will be in Honduras Aug. 18-25. For details visit the Pax Christi web site. You have to pay your own airfare and expenses.

A note on the web page suggests other delegations may be organized for later dates. Check it out.

A detailed proposal for bipartisan heatlhcare reform

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Amid the white-hot anger by many conservatives, including the gun-toting ones, concerning "health care reform," few seem to get into any specifics. Rather, they stay up in the clouds of pejorative words like "socialism," "big government," "death panels," and the like. I have asked some of these folks for specific proposals with which they are in disagreement. The ones with whom I chatted at length could give no specifics.

Joe Klein of Time magazine writes in the August 10, 2009, issue about how special interests "trump the common good," when it comes to health care reform.

Importantly, Klein highlights Oregon's Senator Ron Wyden (D), who offers the "best constructed health care bill. It addresses the major health-care issues, and importantly, has 14 bipartisan co-sponsors."

"It covers everyone and offers more choices, it reforms the health-insurance business, it alleviates the responsibility of employers, it has a robust cost-control mechanism, and it has been scored as revenue-neutral over 10 years by the Congressional Budget Office."

Here is the list of Republican co-sponsors of this Democratic health care reform proposal:

Eunice Kennedy Shriver

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During the "Obama drama" surrounding the University of Notre Dame's commencement last spring, a number of friends remarked to me that they couldn't even remember who their college graduation speaker was.

I can -- even though it was 20 years ago.

The main speaker was civil rights leader Andrew Young, who gave a rousing, inspirational sermon befitting a former preacher. The second speaker was Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who received the Laetare Medal that year. She was equally inspiring, and I remember feeling lucky to have had two amazing speakers help mark the end of my college career. (I also was excited that Covenant House founder Father Bruce Ritter received an honorary degree, but we all know what happened to him.)

Democracy is sometimes raucous

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The shouting down of senators and congressmen at town hall meetings convoked to discuss health care is not an entirely bad thing. After all, American democracy has never been as sublime an exercise as people like to think. Those who bend their knee at the mention of the founders would do well to acquaint themselves with the election of 1800. Two candidates with unimpeachable credentials as founders, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, were pitted against each other in a contest that attained high levels of vitriol. Democracy is not, per se, less effective because it is a bit raucous.

Slump strains church finances as need grows

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Houses of worship and faith communities across the country are cutting budgets and staff and at the same time are being pulled to do more, according to this Wall Street Journal story:

Across the country, congregations of all sizes and denominations are struggling with issues of faith and finance as the recession grinds on. Churches are scouring their budgets for wasteful spending. And many, like Bent Tree, have taken the unusual step of reducing staff.

While the collection plate no longer overflows, churches are seeing an increase in requests for support -- be it for spiritual guidance, monetary help or career advice. And religious leaders have the added task of explaining job losses and pay cuts in spiritual terms.

Churches, synagogues and mosques have historically fared reasonably well during recessions, even as other institutions struggled. But the magnitude of the current downturn has caught up with places of worship, too.

LCWR raises $7 million to assist New Orleans needy

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Under twin investigations from the Vatican, U.S. women religious leaders from around the nation have gathered in New Orleans for the three-day conference of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The Vatican has called for twin investigations of the women, one of the leadership conference itself and the other of women religious communities. But instead of focusing on these investigations, the top agenda item on the first day of the gathering has been to board some 250 women on buses (they ran out of buses) to set off to visit the work of rebuilding the city that has been made possible by money raised by women in conjunction with Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA).

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