National Catholic Reporter

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Politics

Lawmakers struggle with moral choice on health care

WASHINGTON -- As President Obama mounts a full-court press to push his health care bill through Congress, his latest target is a Louisiana Republican whose Catholic faith finds him torn between restricting abortion and expanding access to health care.

Obama asked Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao -- the only Republican to vote for the health care bill in either the House or Senate -- to take a fresh look at the bill March 17.

Editorial: National Catholic Reporter backs health bill

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Congress, and its Catholics, should say yes to health care reform.

We do not reach this conclusion as easily as one might think, given the fact that we have supported universal health care for decades, as have the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Health Association and other official and non-official organs of the Catholic church. There are, to be sure, grave problems with the bill the House will consider in the next few days. It maintains the squirrelly system of employer-based health care coverage that impedes cost reduction. Its treatment of undocumented workers is shameful. It is unnecessarily complicated, even Byzantine, in some of its provisions. It falls short of providing true universal coverage.

Nuns: Vote for health bill would be 'life-affirming'

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WASHINGTON -- The leaders of more than four dozen U.S. congregations of women religious are urging members of Congress to "cast a life-affirming 'yes' vote" on the Senate's version of health reform legislation.

"Despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions," they said in a letter delivered to all members of Congress March 17. "It will uphold long-standing conscience protections and it will make historic new investments -- $250 million -- in support of pregnant women."

Their letter came two days after the U.S. bishops restated their objections to provisions in the measure they said would expand federal funding of abortions.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said March 15 that the bishops were "not quibbling over technicalities" and that the bill deliberately omitted "the necessary language that could have taken this moral question off the table."

In their letter the nuns said theirs "is the real pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for" the health bill.

Catholic bishops, hospitals split on health care

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WASHINGTON -- In a break with Catholic hospital administrators, the nation's top Catholic bishop says the health care reform bill "must be opposed" because it does not adequately ban federal funding of abortion.

"The American people and the Catholic bishops have been promised that, in any final bill, no federal funds would be used for abortion and that the legal status quo would be respected," Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Monday (March 15).

President Obama, who is pressing Congress to pass a health care bill this week, has pledged to exclude federal funding of abortion from the legislation except in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother's health is in jeopardy, as has been federal law since the 1970s.

Obama and others say the health care bill passed by the Senate in December fulfills that promise. The Catholic bishops argue that it does not, and that only the version passed by the House in December contains the necessary ban.

Obama's spiritual cabinet

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WASHINGTON -- Near the end of a bumpy first year in office, President Obama readied for a Christmas vacation in Hawaii, but before he left, he called on a group of five ministers for a spiritual recharge.

Like previous prayer calls, this one was more personal than political.

"He certainly does not ask us how we would run the country and what issue to pursue or not pursue," said Bishop Charles Blake of the Los Angeles-based Church of God in Christ, who was on the phone last December.

For 10 minutes, the president and the pastors prayed for peace, an economic recovery, protection for U.S. soldiers, and for Obama to be guided by a wisdom and power beyond himself.

Glimpses into Obama's spiritual life have been rare since he became president. He split with his longtime Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, after the fiery minister nearly derailed Obama's campaign, and has not joined a church in Washington.

Conservatives pray with 'Liberal' trading cards

WASHINGTON -- Attention Californians: Your governor has just been adopted. Next up: your bleeding-heart senator, Barbara Boxer, and not far behind, her Democratic colleague, Dianne Feinstein.

Not by a new set of parents, mind you, but rather an army of conservative prayer warriors committed to restoring "poor leaders to right thinking."

Kansas wants sales tax from religious nonprofits

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MERRIAM, Kan. -- A proposal in the Kansas Legislature that would repeal the sales tax exemption for churches and religious nonprofit organizations is bad public policy, shortsighted and probably unconstitutional, according to the Kansas Catholic Conference.

In a March 4 legislative alert, the agency representing the bishops of Kansas' four Catholic dioceses said the proposal "would seriously undermine the ability of religious groups to serve Kansas' most vulnerable citizens in these very difficult times."

Church responds differently to same-sex marriage laws

WASHINGTON -- When San Francisco passed an ordinance more than 13 years ago requiring agencies that contract with the city to provide spousal benefits to employees' domestic partners, then-Archbishop William J. Levada asked for a religious exemption, arguing that it imposed "an unconstitutional condition" on religiously affiliated organizations like Catholic Charities.

Within a few days, however, the city and the archdiocese worked out a compromise that allowed employees to designate "legally domiciled" members of their households -- a dependent parent, child or sibling, for example, or an unmarried heterosexual or homosexual partner -- for spousal equivalent benefits, without requiring the church to recognize the "partners" as married.

How 'the bomb' changed the US

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More than 40 years ago the editors of NCR engaged Garry Wills, then a contributor to Bill Buckley’s National Review, to write a regular column for this newspaper. He was the conservative counterpoint to the liberal ideas that dominated the era. Wills subsequently traveled an ideological path that places him, for want of a better term to describe the nation’s leading public intellectual, on the “left.”

With Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State (The Penguin Press, 2010), Wills returns to his roots. Wills, you see, subscribes to the quaint notion that the Constitution actually means what it says, not least when it comes to the question of war.

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April 11-24, 2014

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