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Peace & Justice

People of faith demand universal health care

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WASHINGTON -- Washington's sweltering heat did its best to discourage people of faith from gathering at Freedom Plaza to participate in the Interfaith Service of Witness and Prayer for Health Care for All June 24.

Regardless of the weather, nearly 1,000 people convened between the White House and the Capitol -- armed with water bottles, umbrellas and matching paper fans bearing a message about reform -- to ensure politicians hear their calls for universal health care.

Bishopsí labor document seen as breakthrough

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WASHINGTON

A new U.S. bishops’ document aimed at improving long-troubled labor relations in Catholic health care “is an enormous breakthrough,” said Manhattan College religious studies professor Joseph J. Fahey, chairman of Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice.

“This is a milestone event,” said union leader Gerald M. Shea, assistant for government affairs to AFL-CIO president John Sweeney.

“It’s just stunning,” said John Carr, secretary for justice, peace and human development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “I mean, you have the highest levels of the labor movement and the Catholic Church reaching an agreement when nobody else can, and it’s a wonderful process.”

The 16-page document, released June 22 by the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, is titled “Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Health Care and Unions.” It is available on the Web.

Labor unions, Catholic hospitals reach agreement

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WASHINGTON

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced a new step forward for workers at Catholic health facilities: a set of principles to ensure that workers have a fair process to bargain for a better life.

In “Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Health Care and Unions,” the USCCB, in cooperation with Catholic health care providers and the union movement, has laid out guidelines for Catholic health care ministries across the country.

The document means that labor unions and Catholic leaders have reached an agreement designed to end years of bitter hostilities that often surrounded union efforts to organize workers at Catholic hospitals.

"The central actors in these dramas have to be the workers themselves, that's what we feel is the strength of the document," said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., who helped lead the discussions.

The accord, announced Monday, seeks to apply Catholic teachings that recognize the right of workers to "freely and fairly" decide whether to join a union.

The new guidelines cover seven principles for employers when workers seek a union:

Respect;

Keeping Catholic priorities on the table

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WASHINGTON -- As they work with lawmakers this summer to help craft health care reform legislation, Catholic health ministry leaders say they will push for measures that will sustain principles of human dignity and justice, and extend coverage to the nation’s poor and vulnerable.

“It’s going to be a work in progress,” said Charity Sr. Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association. The organization is not supporting a particular legislative model, but will evaluate each alternative in terms of its potential to deliver cost-effective, quality care to everyone who needs it.

Catholic health providers meet in uncertain climate

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NEW ORLEANS
Health care reform legislation now being drafted on Capitol Hill will likely include broad, sweeping measures with significant implications for providers, Catholic Health Association experts told health ministry leaders gathered Monday for a panel session at the annual Catholic Health Assembly in New Orleans. But it will take some time before the bill’s many “building blocks” and “moving pieces” settle into place.

With an early draft expected to be released next week, public plan options to expand health coverage, an individual mandate that would impose an insurance requirement on all Americans and the challenge of financing coverage will spark intense debate in the coming weeks, said Michael Rodgers, CHA senior vice president of public policy and advocacy. A bill could reach President Obama’s desk by October.

“This is ambitious but doable,” Rodgers said. “Today, certainly, in the White House, we have a president who is going to make this a top priority.”

Seniors shortchanged by recession

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Wealth & Responsibility

OAKDALE, MINN. -- Jill Manthe takes her notebook from her top desk drawer. “I budget,” she said, listing the checks she writes each month from her modest disability income -- rent, medications, electricity, car insurance, cell phone, computer and cable service.

Asked whether she pays for a high-speed Internet connection, she replies matter of factly: “I have plenty of time; I don’t need high-speed.” Manthe recently moved into an attractive one-bedroom unit of Oak Terrace Apartments, a low-income complex in this northeastern suburb of St. Paul.

Manthe is one of millions of older Americans who have had to adjust their living conditions as Wall Street has tumbled, home values have fallen and the nation’s economic meltdown has heightened vulnerability across American society.

Senior citizens seem particularly shortchanged by the global recession. Many have seen their 401(k) funds decimated. The value of their homes has dropped markedly as well. Overall U.S. home prices fell 19 percent between January 2008 and January 2009, with the worst hit cities being Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Francisco, all down more than 30 percent.

Same-sex marriage gains in D.C.

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WASHINGTON -- Last July, Cynthia Nordone and Helen Schietinger took a number at the District of Columbia Department of Health, waited in line and walked away with a document that bound them to one another as domestic partners. But there were no gifts or greeting cards to mark the occasion -- just the seal of a government institution and a few legal benefits.

“It’s very statistical,” said Nordone, as she and Schietinger prepared dinner at home on a recent evening. “It’s not any kind of communal recognition of the commitment that we’re making to the one and only.”

What the couple are looking for -- beyond the meaning and implications of terms like domestic partnership, civil union and civil marriage -- is a sense that their relationship is real to the greater community, outside the walls of the Northwest D.C. home they have shared for nearly 10 years.

“What I think is important is the public witness to the relationship,” said Nordone, 49, a lawyer and lifetime Catholic. “It happens every time I say, ‘This is my partner, Helen’ -- I’m giving witness to what’s important to me.”

Economy for the common good

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Wealth & Responsibility

Catholic social teachings, grounded in principles aimed at providing guidance to moral decision-making, played little, if any, role in preparing the nation for the 2008 economic meltdown, according Catholic educators, some of whom are calling for an examination of the teachings’ place in Catholic educational institutions.

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August 1-14, 2014

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