National Catholic Reporter

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Politics

African-American Catholic elected to head GOP

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Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele won a sixth ballot victory today to become the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC).

A prominent Catholic lay person, Steele serves on the Administrative Board of the Maryland Catholic Conference -- the church’s lobbying arm in the state capitol of Annapolis -- and is a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Landover Hills, MD, where he attends mass regularly with his wife Andrea and their two sons Michael and Drew.

Rumors aside, FOCA no threat to Catholic hospitals

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WASHINGTON -- Internet rumors to the contrary, no Catholic hospital in the United States is in danger of closing because of the Freedom of Choice Act.

As a matter of fact, the Freedom of Choice Act died with the 110th Congress and, a week after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, has not been reintroduced.

But that hasn’t kept misleading e-mails from flying around the Internet, warning of the dire consequences if Obama signs FOCA into law and promoting a “FOCA novena” in the days leading up to Inauguration Day.

The Catholic Health Association “is strongly committed to opposing FOCA and (the board) is unanimous that we would do all we could to oppose it,” said Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., an elected member of the CHA board of trustees since June 2006.

“But there is no plan to shut down any hospital if it passes,” he added in a Jan. 26 telephone interview. “There’s no sense of ominous danger threatening health care institutions.”

Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is CHA president and CEO, was equally sure that FOCA poses no threat to Catholic hospitals or to the conscience rights of those who work there.

Obama rescinds controversial abortion policy

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WASHINGTON

President Obama late Friday, through an executive order, reversed an eight-year Bush Administration policy, allowing the movement of tens of millions of U.S. foreign aid dollars to flow into family planning organizations abroad which advocate abortion or provide abortion services.

The Bush administration had restricted such aid to family planning organizations that had no abortion related activities in their family planning programs.

“For the past eight years, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries,” Obama said of the restrictions. “For these reasons, it is right for us to rescind this policy and restore critical efforts to protect and empower women and promote global economic development.”

In a written statement, Obama said he would work with Congress to restore financial support for the United Nations Population Fund. But he bemoaned the “politicization” of abortion and promised to reach out to all sides to initiate a new dialogue about reducing unintended pregnancies.

Essay: How to end the Abortion Stalemate??

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Few rulings in American history reverberated across the political and social landscape with as much seismic fallout as the Roe v. Wade decision handed down 36 years ago.

Liberals cheered the landmark case as a breakthrough in women's rights. Conservatives and religious leaders railed against the Supreme Court's decision as an affront to human life and a classic display of judicial overreach.

Decades passed, ideologies hardened and bumper sticker slogans ruled the day. The abortion culture wars rewarded the shrillest voices and shattered bridges to common ground.

Today a new generation of Catholic, evangelical and other faithful Americans who believe that over 1 million abortions performed a year represent a profound moral failure are pushing to end the abortion stalemate.

Recognizing the tragedy of terminating a pregnancy will never be solved by harsh rhetoric or through legal battles alone, these religious voters support bipartisan efforts to reduce the number of abortions by preventing unintended pregnancies, expanding adoption opportunities and increasing economic supports to vulnerable women.

Washington March for Life 2009 - with a twist

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The annual March for Life is being held today. Following a noon rally on the National Mall, participants will march to the U.S. Supreme Court.

At this year’s March for Life, held to protest the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade decision legalizing abortion, progressive groups like Catholics United are joining in, aiming to add an element beyond the march’s normal focus, of seeking to overturn that decision.

James Salt, director of Catholics United, said the pro-life movement has spent “36 years and at least $100 million” in opposing the ruling yet have only “incrementally changed the margins. There are still 1.3 million abortions a year in the United States.” If the movement were a corporation, he said, it would be difficult to defend such a record. Arguing for a more “results-based” approach, Salt said, “The pro-life movement should be held accountable.”

This year, he said, his group and others will hold a briefing on efforts, particularly The Pregnant Women’s Support Act, to reduce the number of abortions in America.

Library of Congress seeks inaugural sermons

WASHINGTON -- The Library of Congress' American Folklife Center is seeking sermons that are preached in U.S. houses of worship during inaugural week.

The library said it would mark the historic inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama as the nation's first African-American president by adding sermons from a range of houses of worship and secular settings to its spoken-word collection.

"In anticipation of citizens' efforts to mark this historic time around the country, the American Folklife Center will be collecting audio and video recordings of sermons and orations that comment on the significance of the inauguration of 2009," the center states on its Web site.

"It is expected that such sermons and orations will be delivered at churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship, as well as before humanist congregations and other secular gatherings. The American Folklife Center is seeking as wide a representation of orations as possible."

The collection will include written texts and audio and video recordings from Jan. 16-25. They must be sent to the center by Feb. 27.

Obama to use Lincoln's inaugural Bible at swearing-in

WASHINGTON (RNS) President-elect Barack Obama has chosen the Bible used at President Lincoln's first inauguration for his own swearing-in on Jan. 20, inaugural planners announced.

It will be the first time a president has used the historic Bible at an inauguration since it was first used by Lincoln himself in 1861.

Hope for HUD: Excellence overtakes cronyism

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A longtime bureaucratic backwater, home to more cronyism and corruption than a Bernard Madoff hedge fund or Rod Blagojevich appointment process, provides one of the best yardsticks to measure Barack Obama’s commitment to effective government.

HUD -- the Department of Housing and Urban Development -- was subject to a rare combination of incompetence, chutzpah and malfeasance during the Bush presidency. That, it seems, is about to change. On Dec. 13, Obama named Shaun Donovan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development under Republican-turned-Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to head the department. The baby-faced 41-year-old Harvard-educated architect is hailed by leaders in every segment of the housing industry; realtors, developers, low-income housing advocates, lenders and those who administer the nation’s public housing authorities all praise the choice.

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