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Peace & Justice

Bishops mobilize to guard consciences on contraception

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. bishops are working to mobilize Catholics across the country to tell the Obama administration that contraception and sterilization do not constitute preventive care for women and must not be mandated as part of health reform.

Through a new website at www.usccb.org/conscience, the bishops hope to generate thousands of comments to the Department of Health and Human Services about its Aug. 1 proposal that would require nearly all employers to provide sterilization and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including some that can cause an abortion, at no cost to women covered by their health insurance plans.

But time is of the essence, because the 60-day comment period on the HHS proposal closes Sept. 30.

Fund focuses on empowering women for social change

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In downtown Asheville, N.C., across the street from the unemployment office, a couple of blocks away from the social services agency and less than a mile from the county jail, there is an old yellow house where everyone is welcome. By day it is a shelter for the city’s homeless -- a place to rest, eat a meal, find a friend and escape the heat -- and by night a home to Amy Cantrell, her partner, Lauren White, and a few others who help out with chores, cooking and maintenance.

Catholic defense of unions continues to resonate

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One hundred and twenty-nine years ago this Sept. 5, the first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City, according to the Department of Labor’s Web site. One hundred and twenty years ago, Pope Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novarum, the preeminent encyclical on labor and the church. And seven months ago, Catholics learned or relearned what the church says about labor and unions.

Bishops to 'Supercommittee': Remember poor in budget

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WASHINGTON -- The chairmen of the U.S. bishops' international and domestic policy committees urged the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- popularly known as the "supercommittee" -- to remember the poor and vulnerable as they come up with a plan to deal with the nation's financial deficit.

"In this effort, you will examine endless data, charts and alternative budgets," said Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in their Aug. 31 letter.

"Behind all those numbers are people we serve every day in our parishes, schools, hospitals, shelters and soup kitchens. The poorest and most vulnerable do not have powerful lobbyists, but they have the most compelling needs and a special claim on our individual consciences and national choices, especially in these times of massive joblessness, increasing poverty and growing hunger," they said.

In tough times, remember values of 'the commons'

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Times are tough and the “street talk” at the Catholic Worker soup kitchen shows it: “I can’t pay the rent. I’m back on the streets tomorrow cuz they cut $40 bucks off my check ... Hey, they took my psych meds, they cut me off Medi-Cal, and now I heard that checks won’t be sent next month ...” Recent vitriolic debates in Congress and the denigration of voices calling for mutual responsibility all reflect the degree to which the values of the marketplace have displaced our sense of the common good.

Religion at heart of questions over hospital merger

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The questions began in June, almost immediately after the University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky announced a three-way merger that would bring it under the umbrella of a Catholic health system. If the hospital is to follow Catholic directives on medical care, citizens and media organizations asked, how would the community maintain access to reproductive services previously offered? How would end-of-life decisions be affected? And what impact would these changes have on the city’s poor?

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear weighed in on the issue in July, saying in a statement that the hospital will have to explain how it will continue its “public mission” to the community before the state would approve the merger. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway echoed these concerns while Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz stated his commitment to preserving Catholic moral and social teaching, inviting those with questions to study closely the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” (ERDs), which are guidelines prepared by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop links workforce to 'Rerum Novarum'

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WASHINGTON -- The head of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in an annual Labor Day statement, likened today's workers and the difficulties they face to those who inspired Pope Leo XIII's landmark encyclical of 120 years ago, "Rerum Novarum", ("On New Things").

The encyclical on capital and labor ushered in the era of Catholic social teaching.

"Over 9 percent of Americans are looking for work and cannot find it. Other workers fear they could lose their jobs. Joblessness is higher among African-American and Hispanic workers. Wages are not keeping up with expenses for many," said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., committee chairman, in the statement.

"Countless families have lost their homes, and others owe more on their homes than they are worth. Union workers are part of a smaller labor movement and experience new efforts to restrict collective bargaining rights," he continued. "Hunger and homelessness are a part of life for too many children.

Pending executions face church objections

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WASHINGTON -- As Florida's Supreme Court lifted a stay of execution for Manuel Valle, clearing the path for him to be put to death Sept. 6, the state's Catholic bishops urged Gov. Rick Scott to stop it.

The unanimous court lifted the stay Aug. 23, upholding a lower court finding that a new drug to be used for execution meets constitutional standards. Florida, like other states, has had executions put on hold over the last couple of years while new drugs were sought to replace one that has become unavailable for executions.

In their letter to the governor, Florida's bishops urged Scott to stay Valle's execution on the grounds that: "Killing someone because they killed diminishes respect for life and promotes a culture of violence and vengeance."

The letter, which was dated Aug. 3 and released publicly Aug. 23 by the Florida Catholic Conference, conceded the state's right to impose the death penalty "when absolutely necessary, that is when it is otherwise impossible to defend society. However, given the ability of Florida to protect its residents by incarcerating inmates for life without possibility of parole, we pray you will exercise that option."

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September 26-October 9, 2014

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