National Catholic Reporter

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Politics

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.

Bishops oppose Senate health reform bill

WASHINGTON -- Although authentic reform of the nation's health system is "a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority," the Senate version of health reform legislation "should not move forward in its current form," the heads of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Dec. 19.

The comments came after the introduction of a 383-page manager's amendment incorporating some aspects of an amendment proposed by Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., to improve the bill on the issues of abortion and conscience rights.

Senate rejects health reform abortion restriction

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WASHINGTON – In a 54-45 vote the U.S. Senate Dec. 8 rejected a health care reform amendment that would have clearly ruled out abortion coverage in any publicly funded or subsidized health insurance plan.

Late in the day Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., announced that a team of 10 Senate Democrats had put together a tentative agreement that might break the chamber's deadlock over including a government-run insurance plan as part of the reform.

Stage set for Senate abortion showdown on health reform

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WASHINGTON – Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., set the stage for a quick Senate showdown on federal abortion funding in health care reform Dec. 7 by introducing an amendment -- which quickly drew support from the U.S. Catholic bishops -- that would more clearly restrict the use of any public funds for abortion in the reform bill before the Senate.

There were early indications his amendment would be voted on as soon as today, Dec. 8.

The U.S. Catholic bishops quickly expressed support for the amendment and urged senators to adopt it “to keep in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding that includes elective abortions.”

Co-sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Robert Casey, D-Pa., and six other Republican senators the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment would require the Senate version of comprehensive health care reform to retain the same prohibition on federal funding of elective abortions enshrined in U.S. law since 1976 by the Hyde amendment, which governs all other federal health care programs.

Communion wars resurface in Rhode Island

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ANALYSIS

Though Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy may be the one facing a spiritual sanction in his recent standoff with Providence’s Bishop Thomas Tobin, some Catholics inside the Beltway are quietly worried that it could be the pro-life cause that pays the most immediate political price.

With a critical debate on health care reform underway in the Senate, in which funding for abortion is a central bone of contention, these observers say moderate Democrats now face another incentive to think twice about bucking their party’s official pro-choice stance: fear of appearing to cave in to pressure tactics from Catholic bishops.

Frisco archdiocese to appeal tax ruling

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Archdiocese said it was confident a civil court would rule in its favor over a determination by a city tax appeals board that the archdiocese owes millions of dollars in unpaid property transfer taxes.
t
tIn a unanimous ruling Nov. 30, San Francisco's Transfer Tax Appeals Board said the archdiocese must pay property transfer taxes for moving church properties from one nonprofit entity to another. According to the board, the archdiocese owes $14.4 million.

Good-bye to our late 20th Century political categories

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Commentary

The debate, passage, and outcry over the House health care reform bill demonstrates the staying power of a movement which propelled Barack Obama to the presidency: the rise of independents who refuse to be defined by either party.(They make up 42 percent of the electorate, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, up from 31 percent only a year ago). Nowhere is this more apparent than in the scrambling of the traditional ideological boundaries on the emotional issue of abortion.

Supposedly, the Democratic party is the one which protects the dignity of women’s reproductive health; but in a stunning move that was seen by abortion-rights groups as a radical betrayal of this charge, 64 democrats voted for, and ensured passage of, an anti-abortion amendment to the House reform bill which Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado called “the greatest restriction of a woman’s right to choose to pass in our careers.”

65 million reasons to be thankful

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Commentary

This Thanksgiving comes one week after the United States bishops released a document that, among other things, condemned same-gender marriage and three weeks after the bishops helped defeat marriage equality in Maine. Friends often ask how I remain Catholic. I respond that there are millions of reasons that I am thankful to be a Catholic—and not a Catholic bishop.

On Nov. 3, Maine suffered a profound setback in its march towards marriage equality for its state’s citizens. The loss came after Maine’s Catholic diocese waged a lengthy and costly battle against the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to have the same legal protections as heterosexual couples. The state’s Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices has since revealed that the Diocese spent $553,608.27 on the campaign. Nearly half of the funds came not from anti-gay parishioners in Maine, but from anti-gay Catholic bishops around the country. (See the NCR story here.)

Dioceses major contributors to repeal same-sex marriage

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Gathering money from 50 U.S. dioceses, the Portland, Maine, diocese contributed more than $550,000 to the campaign to rejected Maine's law extending civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples, according to financial records filed with the state agency that tracks political contributions.

In the Nov. 3 referendum, Maine voters rejected 53 to 47 percent the same-sex marriage law.

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