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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


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



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


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


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.

Archdiocese opposes legal gay marriage in DC


WASHINGTON -- The Washington Archdiocese said in written testimony Oct. 26 that it opposes legislation to allow same-sex marriages to be performed in the District of Columbia and is concerned the bill "would restrict the free exercise of religious beliefs if it is passed as drafted."

The archdiocese said it "opposes this legislation and any effort to redefine marriage as other than that between a man and a woman."

Bishops respond to Rep. Kennedy's criticism


PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence and Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York strongly criticized remarks by Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., about the U.S. bishops' role in the health reform debate.

In an interview with Cybercast News Service Oct. 22, Kennedy said the bishops were fanning "the flames of dissent and discord" by insisting that health reform not include abortion funding.

"I can't understand for the life of me how the Catholic church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time, where the very dignity of the human person is being respected by the fact that we're caring and giving health care" to the millions of people who are currently uninsured, Kennedy said in the interview.

"You mean to tell me the Catholic church is going to be denying those people life-saving health care?" he added. "I thought they were pro-life. If the church is pro-life, then they ought to be for health care reform because it's going to provide health care that is going to keep people alive."

Signals from Rome: engagement and confrontation


In a two-month period, Rome sent American Catholics two clear signals. One was on engagement -- the historic meeting of President Barack Obama with Pope Benedict XVI on July 10. The other signal was on the resignation of Scranton, Pa., Bishop Joseph F. Martino on Aug. 31.

For the past decade there has been considerable discussion centered around two words: engagement and confrontation.



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