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Health care ruling may resonate in November



The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's landmark legislation on health care reform, vaulted the controversial law back into the national spotlight. But with a still anemic economic picture dominating most voters' concerns, will the Affordable Care Act still be an issue in November?

Conservative Catholics seem especially motivated by the issue of religious liberty, and their principal focus has been on the provision of the law that allows the Department of Health and Human Services to mandate insurance coverage for certain procedures, like contraception, to which the church objects. Liberal Catholics, as evidenced by the attention generated by the "Nuns on the Bus" tour, are especially concerned about defending social justice programs, with the Affordable Care Act representing the fulfillment of a generations-long struggle to enact universal health care. And what about those Catholic swing voters who hold the balance of voting power in such key battleground states as Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia?

House panel's food aid cuts in farm bill called 'unjustified and wrong'


WASHINGTON -- A proposed $16 billion cut in the nation's Supplemental Nutritional and Assistance Program is "unjustified and wrong," said a joint letter from the chairman of the U.S. bishops' domestic and international justice committees, leaders of Catholic Relief Services and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.

The cuts in SNAP, once known as food stamps, "will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and struggling workers," said the July 10 letter, addressed to Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the committee's ranking Democrat.

"At this time of economic hardship and continued high unemployment, the committee should protect essential programs that serve poor and hungry people. To cut programs that feed hungry people in the midst of economic turmoil is unjustified and wrong," the letter said.

"A just farm bill requires shared sacrifice by all but cannot rely on disproportionate cuts to essential services for hungry, poor and vulnerable people," it said.

New proposal would remove mandate's penalties for religious employers

WASHINGTON -- Saying that the U.S. Supreme Court's June 28 decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act "leaves intact a grave assault to religious freedoms," Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., announced July 10 that he would introduce the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act.

The bill, which has 57 co-sponsors, would allow employers who have religious or moral objections to covering certain preventive services mandated by the health reform law to decline to provide them through their health insurance plans without facing taxes, penalties or enforcement actions for their noncompliance.

The Supreme Court ruled June 28 that it was constitutional for Congress to require individuals to purchase health insurance under its authority to tax.

Editorial: Court decision on political spending exceedingly harmful


In the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a court majority of five (all Catholic men) concluded "that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy."

How wrong they were. How wrong they continue to be.

Editorial: Questions about religious liberty campaign's finances not personal


When a reporter recently asked Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore what groups and individuals were funding the U.S. bishops' religious liberty campaign -- including their vaunted Fortnight for Freedom campaign, which many see as a thinly veiled campaign against President Barack Obama -- he acted as if the question were a personal affront.

Catholic Charities, Catholic Health Association challenge HHS mandate


WASHINGTON -- In separate submissions to U.S. Health and Human Services June 15, Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Health Association sharply opposed the federal health care contraceptive insurance mandate.

Both called it a direct violation of their own religious freedom and that of the thousands of Catholic agencies across the country that they represent.

Commentary: Fortnight for Freedom based on outdated theology



Before the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic church followed a "double standard," wrote Fr. John Courtney Murray, the Jesuit architect of the Council's 1965 Constitution on Religious Freedom (CRF). He continued: The Catholic church calls for "freedom" for the church "when Catholics are a minority, privilege for the church and intolerance when Catholics are a majority." This Constitution, Murray wrote, "has opened a new straightforwardness in relationship between the church and the world." (Abbot, W., Ed., The Documents of Vatican II, Guild Press, NY, NY, 1966, p. 673)

Yet this year, when the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops decided to reject the Health and Human Services mandate-compromise to have insurance companies pay for free contraceptives and sterilizations for all women under the health insurance policies of Catholic hospitals, universities and social agencies, they bypassed the "new straightforwardness" of the 1965 Constitution to return to the old "double standard" of the 500 years of the Inquisition and the 300 years of the Holy Office theology (1123-1965).

Connecticut fight a lesson for religious freedom campaign



In April, the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty released the document "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty," which calls attention to a host of recent threats to religious freedom. One of the items mentioned was a 2009 effort in Connecticut to rewrite the laws by which Catholic churches are incorporated under state law. The bishops, and all Catholics, are well-advised to examine the kerfuffle in Connecticut in 2009, but not necessarily for the reasons Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, head of the ad hoc committee and, in 2009, bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., suggests.

My reaction to the health care ruling: joy



There were many reactions to the health care ruling, but the one I find most appealing is joy. Obviously, strong supporters of President Obama, like myself, had this reaction, but it was far more widespread than that; indeed, the sentiment was very close to the ebullient inaugural day when those who voted for and against Barack Obama felt good about burying many of the ghosts of slavery and racism and hatred that still can at times walk this blessed land.

Bishops urge Congress to fix health law flaws after high court decision

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court's Thursday decision upholding the health reform law makes it even more urgent for Congress to act to fix the law's "fundamental flaws" on abortion funding, conscience protection and immigrants' access to health care, the U.S. bishops said.

The court found that although the individual mandate in the 2010 health reform law does not pass constitutional muster under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, it can be upheld as an acceptable exercise of Congress' taxing powers.

In a 65-page opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, five members of the court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in full but limited the federal government's right to withhold its share of Medicaid funding from states that do not expand the health program for the low-income and disabled as mandated by the law.



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