National Catholic Reporter

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Obama wrestled with ethics of stem cell research


President Obama, during his press conference March 24th, said he has wrestled with the morality of embryonic stem cell research and abortion and does not take these issues lightly. He said strong moral guidelines are needed in these areas.

The following is a transcript of an exchange with a reporter that elicited his comments.

In your remarks on stem cell research earlier this month, you talked about a majority consensus in determining whether or not this is the right thing to do, to federally fund embryonic stem cell research. I'm just wondering, though, how much you personally wrestled with the morality or ethics of federally funding this kind of research, especially given the fact that science so far has shown a lot of progress with adult stem cells, but not a lot with embryonic?

OK. No, I think it's -- I think it's a legitimate question. I -- I wrestle with these issues every day.

As I mentioned to -- I think in an interview a couple of days ago, by the time an issue reaches my desk, it's a hard issue. If it was an easy issue, somebody else would have solved it and it wouldn't have reached me.

Protesting bishop won't attend Notre Dame graduation


Today, Notre Dame university said that despite criticism it has received, President Obama will speak at commencement this May. The following statement was issued by Bishop John M. D'Arcy and it appeared March 24th on the Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana website.

On Friday, March 21, Father John Jenkins, CSC, phoned to inform me that President Obama had accepted his invitation to speak to the graduating class at Notre Dame and receive an honorary degree. We spoke shortly before the announcement was made public at the White House press briefing. It was the first time that I had been informed that Notre Dame had issued this invitation.

President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.

Despite criticism, Notre Dame firm: Obama will speak


WASHINGTON -- University of Notre Dame officials were standing firm on their choice of President Barack Obama as commencement speaker at the institution's May 17 graduation, in spite of a large number of Catholics calling on them to rescind the invitation.

The Indiana university, run by the Congregation of Holy Cross, and the White House announced March 20 that Obama would be Notre Dame's 2009 commencement speaker and confirmed he will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at the graduation.

Catholic academic ayatollah shows true colors


Four years ago I put a theoretical question to Patrick Reilly, president of the Virginia-based Cardinal Newman Society and self-appointed ayatollah to Catholic academia in this country. Reilly is back in the news today because President Obama will deliver the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in May. The overseer of false orthodoxy doesn’t like that one bit.

“It is an outrage and a scandal (emphasis in the original) that ‘Our Lady’s University,’ one of the premier Catholic universities in the United States, would bestow such an honor on President Obama given his clear support for policies and laws that directly contradict fundamental Catholic teachings on life and marriage,” according to a letter to Holy Cross Fr. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, from Reilly and thousands of petitioners he’s drummed up online.

Obama, U.S. bishops' president, meet

President Barack Obama met for half an hour March 17 with Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the White House and the USCCB announced.

Brief statements issued by the White House and the USCCB said little more than that the two presidents had met for a private, 30-minute afternoon session in the Oval Office.

The meeting was not included in Obama's daily schedule released to the press and no mention was made of it by either organization until it was over.

"The president and Cardinal George discussed a wide range of issues, including important opportunities for the government and the Catholic Church to continue their long-standing partnership to tackle some of the nation's most pressing challenges," said the White House statement. "The president thanked Cardinal George for his leadership and for the contributions of the Catholic Church in America and around the world."

Of sows' ears and silk purses


Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's plan to save the banks didn't drive the stock market down 400-plus points one day last month because he delivered it with all the choreography of a hostage tape (though he did). No, Geithner was expected to provide specific detail on how the administration was planning to deal with toxic debt held by banks. He did not deliver, and we suffered the consequences.

Marshall McLuhan was wrong: The medium isn't always the message. Sometimes the message really is the message.

Abortion battle looms on conscience clause


The latest battle in the abortion wars seems to be shaping up around the matter of “conscience clauses” intended to protect health care workers who refuse to participate in certain procedures such as abortions or sterilizations because of personal or religious convictions.

Opposing sides in the debate seem to be preparing their best shots for and against the Obama administration’s intent to rescind an 11th hour Bush Administration rule on the issue. But the precise target is not yet clear because the new ruling, expected any day, has not yet been posted. Once it is posted, there will be a 30-day period for public comment.

Update: HHS opens 30-day period for comments on conscience protection

Further clouding the lines is the fact that three federal laws currently exist to protect health care workers who have a conscientious objection to participating in certain medical procedures and a number of states have either enacted or are working on “conscience clause” legislation.

Advocates of the poor praise new budget plan


President Barack Obama’s proposed federal budget, which would result in a massive transfer of wealth, received rave reviews Mar. 2 from representatives of a number of religious groups, some of which have long ministered to the poor and are among the first to witness firsthand the widespread effects of the current economic crisis.

The Obama proposal, said Jim Wallis, author, activist and president of Sojourners, a Christian community in Washington, attempts to reverse a 30-year trend of growing inequality in the United States caused by policies that presumed that “enhancing the benefits of the wealthiest among us will eventually benefit us all. I think that has been proven false.”

For a long time, said Wallis, “we’ve thought that we did not have to take morals or values into consideration in making budget decisions” and that markets would provide sufficient protection to all. But concern for the common good “disappeared” under that thinking, he said.

Editorial: We shouldn't judge


We learn that Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, in a fundraising letter for a new Washington-based antiabortion group distributed under his signature, questions whether some of his congressional colleagues are genuinely Catholic (see story).

"Real Catholics need a new voice -- not the likes of Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi who have campaigned as Catholics while voting to undermine the values that we hold most dear," according to the letter.



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