National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Politics

U.S. House passes Protect Life Act in bipartisan vote

 | 

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House Oct. 13 passed the Protect Life Act, which applies long-standing federal policies on abortion funding and conscience rights to the health reform law.

The measure passed with a bipartisan vote of 251 to 172. Its chief sponsors were Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., chairman of the Health Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., who co-chairs the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. The bill also had 144 co-sponsors.

"The health care law made it clear that the current way we prevent taxpayer funding of abortion through annual riders is dangerously fragile," Lipinski said in January when the measure was introduced. "We must take action to prevent federal funding for abortion under the health care law and throughout the government, without exception."

In a statement released Oct. 14, Deirdre McQuade, spokeswoman for the U.S. bishop's pro-life secretariat, said that by passing H.R. 358, "the House has taken an important step toward authentic health care reform that respects the dignity of all, from conception onward."

McQuade urged the Senate to likewise "help make health care reform life-affirming."

California bishops question vaccination law

 | 

California Gov. Jerry Brown's approval, Oct. 9, of a bill allowing minors as young as 12 to receive a vaccination against HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases without parental permission has drawn swift and forceful rebuke from the public policy office of the state's Catholic bishops.

Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, called the governor's action both "regrettable and inexplicable." He said AB 499 clearly undermines parental authority and denies parents "a valuable opportunity to discuss sexual health and values with their pre-teen children."

Catholic orgs place ad objecting to HHS mandate

WASHINGTON -- An unusual coalition of national Catholic organizations and universities took to the pages of two Capitol Hill publications Oct. 11 to protest the Obama administration's plan to include contraceptives and sterilization among the mandated "preventive services" for women under the new health reform law.

"As written, the rule will force Catholic organizations that play a vital role in providing health care and other needed services either to violate their conscience or severely curtail those services," the groups said in a full-page ad in Politico and The Hill newspapers. "This would harm both religious freedom and access to health care."

The ad carried the headline, "Support access to health care? Protect conscience rights."

Members of the coalition ranged from the heads of the National Catholic Educational Association and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities to the leaders of Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA.

'Faithful citizenship' gives glimpse of political season

WASHINGTON -- It didn't take long for the "spin" to start after the U.S. bishops reissued their 2007 document, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," with a new introductory note signed by the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairmen of nine USCCB committees.

The reissuance without changes to the body of the text "will not please some conservatives," wrote John Gehring, senior writer and outreach coordinator for Faith in Public Life, adding that "it's good to see the bishops affirm that Catholics should not be single-issue voters."

But Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, emphasized a line from the introductory note, praising the "especially helpful comment" that the document "does not offer a quantitative listing of issues for equal consideration."

"To that we say, 'Amen!" he added. "Not all issues are equal; at the core of every issue is the right to life."

Bishops' agency denied federal grant

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Since 2006, the U.S. Catholic bishops' Migration and Refugee Services has helped more than 2,700 victims of human trafficking obtain food, clothing and access to medical care.

That service has come to a halt because the agency recently learned it did not receive a new grant award for this work from the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement. MRS' prior contract for the trafficking program ended Oct. 10.

Mercy Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service Oct. 11 that she hoped the Catholic Church's "position against abortion, sterilization and artificial contraception has not entered into this decision" by the HHS refugee office to reject MRS' application for a new grant, "especially since this administration has said it stands fully behind freedom of conscience."

She noted that the MRS's anti-trafficking program "ran quite well without these services" and said it would be "tragic if abortion politics harmed the men, women and children already at risk because of the crime and scandal of human trafficking."

Catholics protest proposed health plan mandate

 | 

In the past few weeks, U.S. Catholic bishops, leaders of Catholic health care and charitable organizations, and leaders of educational institutions have spoken out in opposition to a proposed federal mandate that would require all health care plans -- including those offered to employees of Catholic hospitals, schools and ministries -- to include coverage of contraception and sterilizations at no additional cost.

'Protest chaplains' shepherd at protests

 | 

BOSTON -- As waves of demonstrators descended on New York City to protest corporate greed, they were met by typical sounds of raucous youth-led protests: drum beats, police sirens and shouted political slogans.

They didn’t expect to hear hymns.

Yet protestors rounding the corner of Zuccotti Park encountered dozens of white-robed worshipers singing spirituals and blessing the demonstrators while holding signs reading “Blessed are the poor” and brandishing handmade Christian crosses.

The group, calling themselves the “Protest Chaplains,” traveled from Boston to join the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, which claims to advocate for “the 99 percent” of Americans against the “1 percent” who control much of the country’s wealth.

The Protest Chaplains, a loose group of mostly Christian students, seminarians and laypeople organized though Facebook, expressed support for the movement the best they knew how: through their faith.

Bishops warn that church teaching is nonpartisan

 | 

With the 2012 campaign gearing up before an angry and divided electorate, U.S. Catholic bishops on Tuesday reminded Catholic voters that they can’t cherry-pick from church teachings to justify their own political preferences, and cautioned both sides not to edit the bishops’ statements into “voter guides” to back one party or another.

More comments filed objecting to HHS mandate

WASHINGTON -- Catholic organizations filing comments on the federal Department of Health and Human Services' mandate that health insurance plans cover contraception and sterilization and a proposed religious exemption registered their strong disapproval.

The latest round of comments echoed objections raised in those filed earlier by, among others, attorneys for the U.S. bishops and the Catholic Health Association.

The comment deadline was Sept. 30, the last day of a 60-day comment period for the mandate and proposed exemption announced Aug. 1 by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

In describing as "narrow" a religious exception from the proposed mandate, Catholic Charities USA president Father Larry Snyder, in a 13-page Sept. 28 memo to an HHS administrator, said the mandate will "force organizations that oppose contraception for religious reasons to choose between (1) offering these services in violation of their religious beliefs, and (2) facing the prospect of substantial fees if they choose not to offer health insurance coverage. This lose-lose choice would impose a 'substantial burden' on these organizations' exercise of religion."

Pages

Feature-flag_GSR2.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

April 11-24, 2014

04-11-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.