National Catholic Reporter

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Peace & Justice

Religious groups urge health care action

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WASHINGTON

As President Obama prepared to meet with members of Congress Feb. 25 in a nationally televised health care summit, the head of the Catholic Health Association, dozens of Catholic theologians and a wide coalition of religious leaders called on legislators to take action together on meaningful health care reform.

On the eve of the summit, U.S. bishops reminded congressional leaders that they have long taught that "health care is a basic human right."

“The price of inaction is simply too high to pay,” Daughter of Charity Sr. Carol Keehan, CHA president and CEO, said in a statement Feb. 23.

In a letter to Obama and congressional leaders the same day, more than two dozen leading Catholic theologians and other scholars joined the Catholic Alliance for the Common Good, Sojourners and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in calling reform legislation a task of “great urgency.”

The economy's immoral, people are angry. Now what?

News Analysis

NEW YORK -- Ever since the Great Recession began in the fall of 2008, Christians and other faith leaders have criticized the speculative excess and greed that led to the crisis.

A consensus on what to do about it, however, has yet to emerge.

The parameters of the critique were recently staked out at the Trinity Institute's “Building an Ethical Economy” conference here, at Trinity Episcopal Church in the heart of Wall Street. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams bemoaned the damage that results from “an economic climate in which everything reduces to the search for maximized profit and unlimited material growth.”

Williams focused less on short-term action and more on how communities of faith need to examine language and self-image in order to contribute to building an ethical economy over the long term.

There have been no shortage of suggested solutions. Last July, Pope Benedict XVI proposed a macro solution to the financial crisis, calling for a new world financial order that would reform the United Nations and other international institutions in order to give poorer countries more of a role in international policy.

The medical care that is not care

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My daughter-in-law practices medicine in Denver. She tells me of an uninsured man with an incarcerated hernia who came to the emergency room in need of immediate surgery. They could not find a surgeon willing to operate on an uninsured patient. The emergency room physicians reduced the hernia -- a temporary fix at best -- and the man went home.

While this man and others struggle to get health care, I stand with my 91-year-old mother struggling to stem the tide of tests, procedures and hospitalizations. If many young people seldom see doctors for even simple preventative treatment, many old people become professional patients whose last years are spent in waiting rooms and labs, in hospital beds and inside MRI tubes.

Nagasaki's 'Bombed Maria' to visit Spain

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TOKYO — A Marian statue, damaged during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, is set to meet its counterpart in Spain as part of a "peace pilgrimage" marking the 65th anniversary of the bombing.

The two-meter-high statue, known locally as "Bombed Maria", which was shipped from Italy in the 1930s, was damaged when Urakami Cathedral was destroyed during the atomic bombing of Aug. 9, 1945. The head was later found amid the rubble.

Vatican's justice-peace head says what he thinks

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Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana was named the new president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in late October, just as his debut on the global Catholic stage as the relator, or general secretary, of the Synod for Africa ended. It was in some ways a baptism by fire for the 61-year-old Ghanian prelate, introducing him among other things to the press climate in Rome. A few fairly innocent comments from Turkson about condoms, and about the prospect of a black pope, briefly became a cause célèbre in the Italian papers and prompted the Vatican to issue a swift "clarification."

As Turkson now puts it, he was forced to realize that in conversation he may say things with a smile, but in print "the smile never comes across."

Still, Turkson said he doesn't want "circumspection" to get in the way of saying what he thinks. He'd rather speak the truth, he said, and run the risk of being misunderstood.

Catholic needle exchange raises moral questions

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In launching its needle-exchange program last week, the Catholic Diocese of Albany, N.Y., said the decision came down to choosing the lesser evil. Illegal drug use is bad, but the spread of deadly diseases is worse.

The medical evidence is clear, the diocese argued on Feb. 1, when it began "Project Safe Point" in two Upstate New York locations through its local branch of Catholic Charities. Public health studies document that exchanging used syringes for new ones can effectively stanch the spread of blood-borne diseases such as AIDS, and even lead drug abusers to treatment and recovery.

New Ways Ministry: 'much to do with peoples' struggle, pain, little about sex'

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“I feel like they have slapped me in the face again.”

That sentence was emailed to me yesterday by a Catholic lesbian woman after she learned that Cardinal Francis George issued a negative “clarification” concerning New Ways Ministry. Like many lesbian/gay Catholics, this woman perceived George’s statement as directed not so much towards the organization which I direct, but towards herself and her lesbian /gay sisters and brothers in the Church.

Panelists connect issues of faith and economics

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NEW YORK
Franciscan Sr. Kathie Uhler has for months been working on a series of panel presentations to the United Nations that will show the damage exploitative mining has had on the indigenous populations of countries like Peru, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

As Uhler has learned in her research, inhabitants of an area are often unaware of mining–for gems, coal, or oil–that is taking place a short distance from their homes, perhaps on a mountaintop, until natural resources have already been polluted. In many cases, she said, the governments of countries where this mining occurs have allowed companies to do the work without alerting area residents or giving them a choice in the matter.

"You have a microcosm, in mining, of what's happening to the whole earth," said Uhler, one of about 400 attendees at the Trinity Institute's recent "Building an Ethical Economy" conference, a three-day event inside the vaulted chapel of the Episcopalian Trinity Church here on Wall Street and included remarks from Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, England, and Kathryn Tanner, theology professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

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