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Politics

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.

Health care: 'Moral imperative, urgent national priority'

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops regards health care reform as “a moral imperative and an urgent national priority,” John Carr, the bishops' executive director of Justice, Peace and Social Development, said in a media teleconference Nov. 23.

But he said the bishops cannot back a reform that expands federal funding of abortion or fails to protect consciences of health care workers and institutions on key issues of medical ethics. Other criteria for the bishops’ support are whether the bill makes health insurance generally affordable and spreads costs equitably, and the degree to which it meets the church goal of universal coverage, including coverage for immigrants, he said.

Catholics sway health care passage

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Analysis

The night before the Nov. 7 final vote on health care reform in the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was shuttling between gatherings of pro-choice legislators and antiabortion forces, the latter including officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In the end, according to numerous reports, it was the pro-choice group that spurned all efforts at compromise. Pelosi was forced to abandon her pro-choice allies to allow a vote on the amendment advanced by Congressman Bart Stupak, a moderate Democrat from upstate Michigan. As the health reform effort heads now to the Senate, the Catholic church, both its hierarchy and laity, stands in the center of the debate. On the line is not only the long-elusive goal of universal health coverage but also President Obama’s effort to reach out to moderate Catholic voters.

Health care victory give bishops confidence

BALTIMORE -- The successful effort by leaders and staff members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to press lawmakers to keep abortion out of health care reform legislation in the House of Representatives provides an example for the future, according to the chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

"It was a good example of how we as a conference can work together to have a positive influence on legislation," said Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., in a Nov. 16 report to his fellow bishops.

Cardinal George praises health reform vote

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WASHINGTON
Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. bishops, praised the House for approving a reform bill that provides "adequate and affordable health care to all" and "voting overwhelmingly" for a prohibition on using federal money to pay for most abortions.

An amendment to ban abortion funding sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and other House members passed 240-194, and led to passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act in a 220-215 vote.

In a statement issued late Nov. 9, the cardinal lauded the Nov. 7 vote and urged the Senate to follow the House's example.

The House "honored President (Barack) Obama's commitment to the Congress and the nation that health care reform would not become a vehicle for expanding abortion funding or mandates," he said.

The Senate is expected to take up its version of health care reform later this month. The House and Senate bills differ significantly, so any version the Senate passes will have to be reconciled with the other, and each body will vote again on the final legislation. The Senate bill does not include language on abortion similar to the Stupak amendment.

16 years of pro-life advocacy comes to fruition

WASHINGTON -- After 16 years in Congress struggling with his party and even sometimes with his church over his status as a pro-life, Catholic Democrat, Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan was able to put his convictions to powerful effect in the passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act.

With the fate of the House version of massive health care reform legislation hanging by a thread, Stupak managed to bring together a crucial number of votes to pass the bill Nov. 7, by a vote of 220-215, but only after Democratic leaders agreed to permit a vote on his amendment to strictly prohibit any federal funds from going to fund abortions. The amendment passed and Stupak's votes for the final bill came through as promised.

Victory over same-sex marriage comes at high price

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Analysis

PORTLAND, MAINE — After a campaign that saw significant Catholic activism on both sides of the issue, Maine voters rejected a law that would have allowed same-sex marriages.

Fifty-three percent of voters said yes to overturning a law passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor in May.

But in Washington state, it appeared that a referendum to uphold a law granting same-sex domestic partners the same rights as married spouses would be narrowly approved, 51 percent to 49 percent. The referendum had been opposed by Washington's Catholic bishops.

'Toxic politics' prevent immigration reform

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WASHINGTON -- "A toxic political atmosphere" is preventing much-needed humane reform of the "broken immigration system" in the United States, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick said Nov. 3 at a forum on immigration and human dignity at Georgetown University.

Calling for "comprehensive immigration reform,' the retired Washington archbishop said, "We have to change what is broken, lest more people will suffer. We have to be courageous and persistent and change the system."

Bishops' health care bulletin inserts go nationwide

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has sent bulletin inserts to almost 19,000 parishes across the country in an effort to urge Catholics to prevent health care reform from being derailed by support for abortion funding.

"Health care reform should be about saving lives, not destroying them," the insert states. It urges readers to contact Senate leaders so they support efforts to "incorporate long-standing policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights" in health reform legislation.

"If these serious concerns are not addressed, the final bill should be opposed," it adds.

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