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Politics

Bishops to Congress: Set aside partisanship

WASHINGTON -- Three leading U.S. bishops called on members of Congress Jan. 26 to "set aside partisan divisions and special-interest pressures" to achieve genuine health reform.

"The health care debate, with all its political and ideological conflict, seems to have lost its central moral focus and policy priority, which is to ensure that affordable, quality, life-giving care is available to all," said a letter signed by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishops William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., and John C. Wester of Salt Lake City.

The three chair the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committees on Pro-Life Activities, on Domestic Justice and Human Development and on Migration, respectively.

Catholics have hope for health reform even after Brown election

WASHINGTON -- The election of Republican Scott Brown to fill the U.S. Senate seat held since 1962 by Democrat Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts does not mean Catholic leaders will abandon efforts to achieve much-needed health reform.

That was the message from the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association and the director of the Office of Domestic Social Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops the day after Brown, a state senator in Massachusetts, defeated state Attorney General Martha Coakley, 52 percent to 47 percent, in a special election Jan. 19.

Once Brown is seated in the Senate, Democrats will lose the 60-seat supermajority that had allowed them to cut off GOP filibustering on health reform legislation. Brown has said he would vote against the current Senate health reform plan.

White House stop added to March for Life activities

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WASHINGTON -- Pro-life activists flocking to the nation's capital for the 37th March for Life Jan. 22 will be buoyed by recent polls that say they are among the majority of Americans who identify themselves as pro-life.

Organizers of the massive demonstration also have scheduled -- for the first time in its history -- a two-hour rally at Lafayette Park, across from the White House, the evening before the march, in an effort to demonstrate their commitment to the pro-life movement to President Barack Obama.

Billed as a mini-rally because the permit limits the gathering to 3,000 demonstrators, organizers say they planned the White House event to bring the "life principles to the president of the United States."

Obama, nearing the end of his first year in office, has repeatedly said he supports keeping abortion legal in the U.S.

Tens of thousands from all over the U.S. travel each year to the nation's capital for the Jan. 22 anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Health care bill must pass

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Congress should pass, and the president should sign, health care reform legislation soon to emerge from a House/Senate conference committee. American Catholics -- in the pews, from diocesan chanceries, and in the organizations that represent them in the public arena -- should be especially enthusiastic in their support of the most significant expansion of the U.S. social contract since the passage of universal coverage for the elderly (the Medicare program) more than four-and-a-half decades ago.

Abortion still major issue facing US health care reform

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WASHINGTON -- Senate-House divide over abortion is one of the key obstacles still to be overcome if the United States is to take its next major step toward reforming its health care system.

Health care reform was far from a done deal as 2009 drew to a close. If it passes, it stands to rank with the 20th century’s legislation on child labor, minimum wage, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid among the major socioeconomic changes in federal support for and protection of the nation’s lower and middle classes.

'No disagreement' between Catholic hospitals, bishops

WASHINGTON -- Despite a New York Times report to the contrary, the Catholic Health Association and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are working together to achieve health reform legislation that does not expand federal funding of abortion, according to the CHA president and CEO.

Sr. Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview Dec. 28 that her organization has never wavered in its commitment to health care that protects "from conception to natural death," as outlined in the CHA document, "Our Vision for U.S. Health Care."

To pass, health reform needs House Catholic Democrats

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Analysis

As the U.S. Senate moved toward a Christmas Eve vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- apparently with the 60 senators on board that are needed to block a Republican filibuster and pass the bill -- I was again struck by the key role that 31 Catholic Democrats in the House have played so far and are likely to play in the final outcome of the legislation.

Those are the 31 who backed language forbidding federal funding of abortion in the health care reform and then voted for the entire reform package -- in both cases as key votes for passage.

Bishops: Senate health bill remains 'deficient'

WASHINGTON -- The Senate should not approve its current health reform bill "without incorporating essential changes to ensure" that it "truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all," the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

In a letter sent late Dec. 22, about 36 hours before the expected Senate vote Christmas Eve morning, the USCCB urged opposition to the Senate bill and pledged continued efforts to incorporate needed changes during the work of the House-Senate conference committee.

In politics, hierarchy applies selective blackmail

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Commentary

The Catholic bishops in the United States for years now have been crossing into political waters for the distinct purpose of outing high-profile Democratic politicians who don’t vote the way the bishops want on the abortion issue. It is fascinating that in recent memory the Catholic hierarchy has never spoken out against any Republican. Could it be that the only political sinners are Democrats and that the only political sin is favoring a political strategy of upholding the law regarding the right to abortion while seeking policies aimed at reducing the number of abortions?

Pro-life Catholic Democrats key in health reform

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ANALYSIS

WASHINGTON -- Whatever the outcome of the nation’s debate over health care reform, one of the biggest byproducts is the emergence of a relatively small group of pro-life Catholic Democrats in the House of Representatives as key figures in the nation’s moral and political debate.

The Senate continues to have a pro-choice majority and nearly all Catholic senators tend to follow their party’s position — pro-choice if you’re a Democrat, antiabortion if you’re a Republican.

But things have gradually changed in the House, and now about three dozen Catholic pro-life Democrats carry a key swing vote if they decide to challenge the party line on abortion issues.

In the vote Nov. 7 on an amendment introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., to prohibit federal funding of elective abortions in the health care reform bill, a disproportionate 36 of the 64 Democrats who voted for the amendment — 56 percent — were Catholic. Less than 40 percent of the total Democratic House membership is Catholic.

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May 22-June 4, 2015

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