National Catholic Reporter

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Politics

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.

No sanction for Spanish king signing abortion law

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MADRID, Spain -- If King Juan Carlos of Spain signs a new law easing restrictions on abortion, as he is constitutionally required, the country's bishops will not take action against him, the general secretary of the Spanish bishops' conference said.

As the law was being debated, Spain's bishops had said Catholic members of parliament who vote to liberalize abortion would place themselves outside the church and should not receive Communion.

Clergy seek IRS probe of D.C. boarding house

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WASHINGTON -- A group of 13 Ohio clergy is asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate a Washington boarding house used by conservative members of Congress that claims a tax exemption as a church.

The C Street Center, a red brick townhouse on Capitol Hill, came to public attention last summer after the disclosure of its ties to several Republican politicians who had admitted to extramarital affairs.

Bishops' views don't always find favor among laity

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NEWARK, N.J. -- With their high-priority issues prominent on national agendas, Catholic clergy have been unusually active in politics. Bishops in New Jersey and elsewhere have been especially vocal on matters such as same-sex marriage, national health care and illegal immigration.

Yet polls show that when Catholic bishops press their positions with politicians on such issues, they often do so without the support of large segments of the lay people in their dioceses.

Regarding same-sex marriage -- which the bishops oppose and which the New Jersey Legislature rejected in January after intense debate -- American Catholics are divided, polls have shown. On health care reform, a majority appear to disagree with the bishops' position that no health care bill is acceptable if federal money can be used to pay for abortions. On immigration reform, a third disagree with bishops' call to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, according to a recent Zogby poll.

Critics of religious influence on politics point to the disparities and argue religious leaders are speaking for themselves and for their faith's official teachings, not for those in their pews.

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December 5-18, 2014

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