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Obama, U.S. bishops' president, meet

WASHINGTON
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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Don't read that bill

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Twenty-seven years in Washington -- as press secretary and legislative assistant to a member of the House Budget Committee, political correspondent and public relations pitchman -- has, to be sure, its drawbacks. It is easy to fall victim to the unreality of the Washington bubble, the "inside the beltway" mentality and all that.

But such experiences also provide an ear for the demagogic sound bite, the trite but false phrase, the Astroturf manufactured message masquerading as grass-roots wisdom.

Case in point: the oft-repeated cry from those who opposed the $787 billion economic stimulus bill that no one had "read the bill."

The chorus of false outrage was large. On the House floor, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) yelped that members of Congress had not "read the bill." Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal joined the choir in his Feb. 24 response to President Obama's address to the joint session of Congress, saying "we can rid our Capitol of corruption and ensure we never see the passage of another trillion-dollar spending bill that Congress has not even read [italics added] and the American people haven't even seen."

26 prominent Catholics back Sebelius pick

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A group of 26 Catholic leaders, scholars and theologians Mar. 1 publicly expressed support for the nomination of Governor Sebelius as the next HHS secretary .

They issued a statement calling attention to Sebelius’ successful efforts at reducing abortion in Kansas as well as the Catholic faith’s long standing support for universal health care.

Sebelius Feb. 28th accepted President Obama's request to become his Health and Human Services secretary.

“As faithful Catholics we proudly offer our support to Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who has been nominated to head the Department of Health and Human Services,” statement read.

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Conservatives denounce Sebelius nomination

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Catholic group defends Gov. Sebelius record

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Washington
Catholics United today, a Washington-based Catholic group, announced an initiative intended to educate Catholic leaders and laity on Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius’ record.

Sebelius Feb. 28th accepted President Obama's request to become his Health and Human Services secretary, stepping into a central role in the new administration's ambitious effort to overhaul the nation's health care system.

The effort features a Web site – Catholics for Kathleen Sebelius – which includes facts about Sebelius' record on issues important to Catholics, and a grassroots petition to demonstrate Catholic support for her nomination.

“Gov. Sebelius is a proven and tireless advocate for children's health care, education, adoption, and support for pregnant women, all components of a public policy agenda intended to benefit the common good. Under her leadership, the state of Kansas has witnessed sharp declines in both abortions and teen pregnancy,” said Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United.

Brownback questions foes' Catholicism

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Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback, in a fundraising letter for a new Washington-based antiabortion group distributed under his signature, questioned whether six of his Democratic colleagues and the Speaker of the House are genuine Catholics.

"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 undated Brownback letter.

NCR received the letter in the mail Feb. 17.

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April 11-24, 2014

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