National Catholic Reporter

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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


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


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


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


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.

Redefining the term 'pro-life'



Former President George W. Bush will receive a pro-life award this weekend (Feb. 4-6) from Legatus, an organization of Catholic business professionals. The group cites his administration's opposition to embryonic stem cell research; an executive order that barred federal funds from international family planning groups that offer abortions; and the appointment of "pro-life" Supreme Court justices.

The honor raises an essential question that should challenge both political parties. It also underscores the limits of labels: What does it mean to be pro-life?

Charges against bishops' official called false, ridiculous

WASHINGTON -- Bishops who work closely with John Carr, who oversees the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, say new claims against him and the agency are false and "totally ridiculous."

Bishops William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y.; Roger P. Morin of Biloxi, Miss.; and Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., spoke with Catholic News Service Feb. 3 and 4 about recent allegations of "a systemic pattern of cooperation with evil" by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops because of Carr's past involvement with the Center for Community Change.

Rising debt could cripple economy, analysts say


News Analysis
President Obama’s $3.8 trillion budget, sent to Congress this week, projects a $1.3 trillion deficit. As daunting as the figure might sound, it pales as a fiscal challenge to a larger structural deficit, which left ignored could eventually pull the rug right out from under our nation’s economy.

This is the growing consensus of economists and budget analysts on the left and right who say our nation is at risk and our nation’s policymakers, caught in gridlock, lack the political will to deal with the crisis.

As a result, these budget watchdogs say we are saddling our children and grandchildren with potentially paralyzing debt.

In broad strokes, those who look at the problem – which involve liabilites of over $56 trillion - see two paths out of the woods: increasing taxes and decreasing spending. They say both are necessary, though some deficit spending might be required in the short run to revive the economy.

Catholic Charities lauds Obama's focus on jobs


WASHINGTON – The head of Catholic Charities USA praised President Barack Obama for focusing on jobs, child care and education in his State of the Union address Jan. 27 but warned against letting those most in need slip through the cracks.

"We need the administration and Congress committed to ensuring that those living on the margins are not left behind as our nation recovers from this brutal recession," said Fr. Larry Snyder, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA.



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