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NCR Commentary: The Republican captivity

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In their long history, the People of God have seen many captivities, both literal and figurative: the Babylonian Captivity; the Constantinian Captivity, the Carolingian Captivity, the Holy Roman Empire Captivity, the Avignon Captivity. In each of these situations, civil authorities captured God’s people and used them for their own advantage. One would think that history has seen enough of such “captivities,” and that the church, having learned from this history, would be wary of it ever happening again.

What then explains the current captivity, perhaps more figurative than literal, of the Catholic church in America by the Republican Party? This captivity was again in evidence earlier this month in Baltimore as the bishops met. The more vocal bishops were obviously unhappy with the election results, and some of the more extreme statements, such as prohibiting the vice president elect from a return to the town of his birth unless he changes his ways, sound like Republican ward heelers. How did this happen? Why are these bishops acting like functionaries of the Republican Party?

How a bill doesn't become a law

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Opponents of the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA), legislation supported by President-elect Obama that would establish a federal statutory right to abortion that goes beyond Roe v. Wade, must act urgently to halt its passage.

Or so the nation’s leading antiabortion advocates would have you believe.

“WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! WE MUST ACT IMMEDIATELY!!!” screams the flier produced by the National Right to Life Committee, formed in 1973 to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Meanwhile, Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki said this month that FOCA “could mean discontinuing obstetrics in our hospitals, and we may need to consider taking the drastic step of closing our Catholic hospitals entirely.” Cardinal Francis George, president of the bishops’ conference, agreed, saying that Paprocki’s warning was “well-founded.”

Here’s the reality: FOCA has as much chance of passage as the 0-10 Detroit Lions have of winning the next Super Bowl.

Will Obama be good for Israel?

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Israeli reactions on Obama run from fear to cautious optimism

Except for professions of unqualified support of Israel by both candidates, little was said specifically during the recent presidential campaign about the principle U.S. ally in the Middle East or about how each candidate might approach the seemingly intractable problems that would face a new administration.

Even though news cycles now are understandably overwhelmed by the deepening global financial crisis, the realities on the ground in Israel and its neighbors will inevitably demand the attention of the new president. The court of public opinion that president-elect Barack Obama will face in Israel is very mixed, running from skepticism to an assessment that considers his election “a miracle.”

Part of that mix involves Christians, whose primary interests are the peace process and ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Diocese: Priest wrong in Obama condemnation

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A South Carolina Catholic priest was wrong to warn parishioners who voted for President-elect Barack Obama to confess their sin before receiving Communion, according to the head of the priest's diocese.

Monsignor Martin T. Laughlin, administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, said in a statement late Friday (Nov. 14) that "if a person has formed his or her conscience well, he or she should not be denied Communion, nor be told to go to confession before receiving Communion."

Last week, the Rev. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville, said that by receiving Communion, Obama supporters "drink and eat their own condemnation," because the president-elect supports abortion rights. Newman later said he would not deny the sacrament to anyone "based on political opinions or choices."

Newman's statements "do not adequately reflect the Catholic Church's teachings. Any comments or statements to the contrary are repudiated," Laughlin said. He added that Newman pulled the church's moral teachings "into the partisan political arena" and "diverted the focus from the church's clear position against abortion."

U.S. bishops see 'ray of light' in Prop 8 outcome

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Amid what many American bishops saw as a rather dismal election with regard to traditional “faith and values” issues, several prelates during their recent meeting in Baltimore pointed to Proposition 8 in California as a ray of light.

“Strengthening marriage” is one of five top priorities the U.S. bishops have identified through 2011. The success of an anti-gay marriage measure in California, usually seen as among the “bluest” of the blue states, seemed to embolden the bishops in defense of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“Marriage is not an institution created by the church, or by the state,” said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in remarks to reporters in Baltimore. “It’s a natural institution, a universal institution.”

“To imagine that we can change it by a vote or by a court decision is an example of hubris,” George said, arguing that the victory of Proposition 8 shows that “people recognize that … people feel that.”

Legal challenges grow in wake of Proposition 8 passage

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SAN FRANCISCO
The NAACP and a coalition of racial justice groups weighed in on the side of gay marriage Friday and brought a new argument to the table. They filed their own legal challenge to California's Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment voters just approved that rescinds same-sex marriage.

"This is a very powerful and dramatic turn of events," said Shannon Minter, an attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "The message behind the petition filed today is that a threat to one is a threat to all."

(John Allen on U.S. bishops reaction to passage of Proposition 8.).

(California bishops' official statement after passage of Propostion 8.)

'Special responsibilities of pro-life, pro-Obama supporters'

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Kansas City, MO.
Catholics of good will, acting in good faith, have - and will continue – to differ on how best to respond to the tragedy of abortion in the United States. Some, of course, have placed their overriding focus on overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1973. Others, the NCR editors included, have advocated rooting out the causes that lead women to have abortions.

We criticized the U.S. bishops for holding to the former path while seemingly forsaking most other political issues with a moral component.

For example, in an editorial in the Oct. 31st issue, we wrote:

“Another presidential election cycle is nearly ended, and once again the Catholic bishops in the United States have sadly distinguished themselves for the narrowness and, in too many cases, barely concealed partisanship, of their political views.

'Freedom of Choice Act' nightmare for bishops, pro-lifers

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Baltimore
America’s Catholic bishops have been talking about abortion and politics at least since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, but their discussion this week in Baltimore had a special sense of urgency – driven by what many bishops and their pro-life advisors regard as a looming nightmare scenario under the new Obama administration in the “Freedom of Choice Act,” or FOCA.

Candidate Obama pledged to support the Freedom of Choice Act, which was first introduced in congress in 2004 but to date has not made it out of the committee stage. It acknowledges a “fundamental right” to abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy and at subsequent stages for health reasons. It would also bar discrimination in the exercise of the right “in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services or information.”

Freedom of Choic Act central to bishops' concerns

BALTIMORE
Fears about laws and changes in regulations on abortion that might advance under a new Democratic-run Congress and White House are the central focus of a statement approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 12 during their annual fall meeting in Baltimore.

The majority of the 830-word, untitled statement focuses on concerns about the possible passage of the Freedom of Choice Act, calling it "an evil law that would further divide our country" and adding that the church "should be intent on opposing evil."

It warns against interpreting the outcome of the Nov. 4 elections as "a referendum on abortion" and says "aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans."

The statement was crafted during the bishop's meeting and involved a total of nearly three hours of discussion on the topic during executive and public sessions Nov. 11. Under USCCB policies, statements drafted outside the usual committee approval process may be issued by the conference president on behalf of the bishops.

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October 10-23, 2014

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