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Catholic groups among those squaring off on union bill

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Catholic activists supporting the Employee Free Choice Act -- the labor movement’s top legislative priority in Congress -- say the bill is rooted in church social teaching inspired by papal encyclicals dating back more than a century. The measure is needed, say supporters, to counteract management efforts to stymie employee organizing efforts and to boost worker wages and benefits.

But those who oppose key components of the bill, including some major Catholic institutions, argue that the legislation would encourage labor organizers to bully potential members into union membership by denying workers secret-ballot elections.

Obama's faith-based council still finding its footing

WASHINGTON

Advisers tapped to help guide the White House's revamped faith-based office say their role is still evolving as the initiative tries to find its footing in the young Obama administration.

Initial members of the council, who were named in February, opened a two-day meeting with White House officials April 6. An additional nine members, who will round out the 25-member council, were also announced April 6.

Scholars to press Obama on religious freedom

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WASHINGTON
A group of scholars has urged U.S. religious communities to persuade President Barack Obama that the promotion of international religious freedom in his diplomatic policies is vital to national security.

During a panel discussion on the effectiveness of the U.S. international religious freedom policy at Georgetown University April 15, the scholars agreed the U.S. State Department has underused the International Religious Freedom Act in the decade since it was passed. They also said diplomatic efforts would flourish if U.S. diplomats reached out to foreign religious leaders more often.

"There is this erroneous notion that it's unconstitutional if we are talking to religious leaders around the world," said Thomas F. Farr, a former U.S. diplomat and visiting associate professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown.

For decades, the State Department has operated on the philosophy that religion must be kept out of U.S. diplomatic policy, Farr told about 100 students, faculty members and visitors at Georgetown's Riggs Library.

President Obama's Catholic problem

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President Obama has a Catholic problem. The vituperative attacks on him over his decision to deliver the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame are evidence of a deeper disquiet because they have not been restricted to the radical pro-life fringe. Nine American bishops have publicly voiced their opposition to his going to Notre Dame. This kerfuffle was largely avoidable but the White House has seemed tone deaf to Catholic concerns since January 20.

Three days after the Inauguration, President Obama revoked the Mexico City policy that prevented government funding of overseas family planning groups if they provide information on procuring an abortion. This was expected but, the White House did not send out emissaries to argue that the change was mostly about family planning services, and that it is precisely the absence of such services that has resulted in the high abortion rates in many developing countries, including Catholic countries.

Jesuit educators back Obama Notre Dame invitation

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The president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities said he has privately expressed support for the University of Notre Dame in its decision to invite President Barack Obama as commencement speaker and hopes the controversy that has erupted over the invitation leads to substantive talks among college presidents and bishops.

“I think that the bishops have the responsibility to protect the faith of their folks, and so I think this is the kind of thing that really has to be talked out in a conversation between bishops and university presidents. We have to raise the level of the dialogue beyond condemnations,” said Jesuit Fr. Charles Currie in an April 13 phone interview.

He said he and the presidents of the association’s 28 member institutions have privately expressed support to Holy Cross Fr. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, who recently has come under attack from right to life groups and some bishops who perceive the invitation as an endorsement of Obama’s pro-choice views on abortion and his support of stem cell research.

Iowa bishops oppose gay marrige decision

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DAVENPORT, Iowa

Iowa's Catholic bishops vigorously disagreed with the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous decision April 3 that strikes down state law defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

"This decision rejects the wisdom of thousands of years of human history. It implements a novel understanding of marriage, which will grievously harm families and children," the bishops said in a statement prepared by the Iowa Catholic Conference.

The bishops vowed to continue to protect and promote marriage as a union between a man and a woman and asked Catholics and other citizens of Iowa to call for a constitutional amendment on marriage.

With the high court's ruling, Iowa becomes the third state in the nation to recognize marriages for gay and lesbian couples, after Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Last May, California's Supreme Court overturned its statute barring same-sex marriage, but a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman was approved by voters in November. That state's Supreme Court is to issue a decision on a constitutional challenge to the ballot initiative.

Civility, respect should be our aim

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It was hard not to be moved by Pope Benedict XVI's recent cri de coeur on the Catholic world's reaction to his remission of the excommunication of the Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson. "I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility," the Holy Father wrote in a letter to all the bishops in the world.

Burke apolgizes for remarks critical of U.S. bishops

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Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, issued an apology today to “my brother bishops” for statements he made earlier this month that were released yesterday in a videotape at the National Press Club in Washington.

Update: Read Loverde’s and Wuerl’s repsonse

In that video, released by anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, Burke chided bishops for failing to withhold Communion from Catholic politicians who back legalized abortion.

He also said President Barack Obama "could be an agent of death" if his support for abortion rights becomes a model for leaders in other countries.
Burke said the failure of some bishops to stand up by withholding Communion is “weakening the faith of everyone.

He said "It's giving the impression that it must be morally correct to support procured abortion."

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Politicizing Communion harms interests of the church

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It was only a few decades ago that no one questioned a fellow Catholic’s decision either to receive or not to receive the Eucharist. This tradition has been slowly and regrettably compromised over the past 20 years. Holy Communion has become, in some circles, a political football.

The trend is unmistakable:


  • The vice president of the United States was told by the bishop of his native city that he should not present himself for Communion there. The full body of the U.S. bishops at its general meeting in November 2007 approved an election guide called “Faithful Citizenship” intended for all U.S. Catholics. However, the bishop of the vice president’s diocese said he did not regard it as “official.”

  • A former Republican official is circulating a petition among Catholics urging all bishops to bar Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, President Obama’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, from receiving Communion in every diocese in the country, including Washington.

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September 12-25, 2014

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