National Catholic Reporter

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Politics

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.

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.

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