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Bishop: ‘Fundamental defects’ persist in Senate’s version of health bill

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 Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act contains “many of the fundamental defects” that appeared in the House-passed American Health Care Act “and even further compounds them,” said the bishop who heads the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

The Senate released its health care reform bill in “discussion draft” form June 22.”As is, the discussion draft stands to cause disturbing damage to the human beings served by the social safety net,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, said in a statement released late June 22. “It is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written.” Read more »

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Catholics urged to work for ‘holiness of freedom, freedom for holiness’

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — When Henry VIII, as England’s reigning monarch, was declared “a defender of the faith,” the future “must have seemed so bright to Thomas More and John Fisher,” Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said in a homily June 21.

He described an England which “seemed to have been spared the painful divisions that racked the Catholic Church on the continent of Europe.” Under Henry, he said, “monastic life and learning were flourishing” while “ordinary Catholics showed their love and loyalty to the church.”

“Who could have imagined the severe test More, Fisher and English Catholicism would face in so short a time?” Archbishop Lori asked. Read more »

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Military prelate asks prayers for those who perished in ship collision

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WASHINGTON — The head of the U.S. military archdiocese June 20 expressed sorrow for the lives lost in “the tragic ship collision” involving the USS Fitzgerald off the coast of Japan.

Seven sailors died aboard the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, which collided with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel early in the morning June 17. Hours later, their bodies were found in flooded berthing compartments. Read more »

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New priests follow many paths to answering call to serve God’s people

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WASHINGTON — After almost 12 years as an Episcopal priest, Deacon Jonathan Erdman entered into full communion with the Catholic Church along with his family in 2016 and a year later, he is becoming a Catholic priest.

He will be ordained a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter June 29.

This spring, 590 men entered the priesthood in dioceses throughout the United States, according to a report released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. The report is based on an annual study that the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate conducted for the USCCB. Read more »

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Judge OKs court challenge to California’s assisted suicide law

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Catholic News Service

 

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — A Superior Court judge ruled June 16 that a civil rights lawsuit challenging California’s assisted suicide law will go forward.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Ottolia denied California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, which had asked the judge to decide the case against the plaintiffs without a trial. Read more »

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High court: State erred in denying poor defendant independent evaluation

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Catholic News Service

 

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, said the state of Alabama erred in denying an indigent defendant now on death row a separate psychiatric evaluation that would assist in his own defense.

The ruling, issued June 19, overturned the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in 2015 in the case of James McWilliams, and returned it to that court for further review. Read more »

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Bishops grant religious liberty committee permanent standing

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Catholic News Service

INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. bishops voted June 15 to make the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty a permanent standing committee.

The 132-53 vote came on the second day of the bishops’ spring assembly in Indianapolis. There were five abstentions. A simple majority was required for approval.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., left, and Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, La., pray June 14 during the opening session of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual spring assembly in Indianapolis. (CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., left, and Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, La., pray June 14 during the opening session of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual spring assembly in Indianapolis. (CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)

The bishops’ action came less than a week before the start of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fifth annual Fortnight for Freedom June 21-July 4. It is a two-week period of prayer, advocacy and education on religious freedom.

Before the vote, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the committee since its creation in 2011, spoke in favor of making it permanent, arguing the need for the body stretches beyond the specific legal and public policy issues challenging religious freedom that continue to emerge.

“Rather, the very idea of religious freedom and its roots in human nature is challenged,” he said, “along with the right of religious people and institutions to raise their voices in the public square and to perform ministries that serve the common good in accordance with their religious and moral convictions.”

Archbishop Lori also expressed his hope the ad hoc committee’s work up to now and in the future would help “plant the seeds of a movement for religious freedom, which will take years of watering and weeding in order for it to grow, to grow strong and to bear fruit.”

“In the face of these challenges, our voice is vital,” he said. “Debates about religious freedom in our country are often, sadly, polarizing. In our tumultuous political culture, Catholic laity must be equipped to participate in conversations about the future direction of our country.”

Archbishop Lori will celebrate the fortnight’s opening Mass the evening of June 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. The archbishop will celebrate a special closing Mass July 4 in Orlando, Fla., during the Convocation of Catholic Leaders.

In the discussion that followed Archbishop Lori’s presentation, some bishops spoke in favor of establishing a standing committee on religious freedom. Among them was Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl.

“The challenge to religious liberty is a growing one,” he said. “The dominant culture increasingly now finds that it’s not just a matter of disagreeing with religious principles and positions. But there’s a certain level of hostility becoming more and more evident. … This problem is not going to go away.”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who was USCCB president when the ad hoc committee was created, also spoke in favor of making it permanent.

He noted that bishops around the world “look to us in the United States (as) real quarterbacks when it comes to the defense of religious freedom” and added that “ecumenical partners how deeply they cherish our leadership on this issue.”

“I think it’s enhanced the cause of interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, because we’re not the only ones concerned,” Cardinal Dolan said. “So, we need some permanence. We need some stability. And I think this is the way to go.”

Some bishops felt the ad hoc committee did not need to become permanent because they felt religious liberty could be addressed by existing standing committees.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, also noted that it was “very unfortunate” that the vote on the committee was taking place a day after the bishops allowed its working group on immigration to cease to exist.

However, after the vote on the committee, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo announced he would allow the working group to continue its efforts, prompting applause from the bishops.

In a news conference after the meeting session, Archbishop Lori said he was grateful “it was not a pro forma discussion, but rather an opportunity for bishops in a wonderfully respectful and dialogic way, to express their views about” religious liberty.

By Sean Gallagher, a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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U.S. bishops focused on ‘ensuring fundamental right’ to health care

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Catholic News Service

INDIANAPOLIS — As the country awaits the U.S. Senate’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the coming weeks, the U.S. bishops made it clear June 15 during their annual spring assembly in Indianapolis that their efforts are focused on “ensuring the fundamental right of medical care” for all people.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also reinforced its stand that the American Health Care Act passed by the U.S. House May 4 needs major reform, to provide quality health care for the voiceless, especially children, the elderly, the poor, immigrants and the seriously ill.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, center, speaks June 14 during the opening of the bishops' annual spring assembly in Indianapolis. Also pictured is Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president. (CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, center, speaks June 14 during the opening of the bishops’ annual spring assembly in Indianapolis. Also pictured is Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president. (CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)

“We find ourselves in a time marked by a deep sense of urgency and gravity,” said Bishop George L. Thomas of Helena, Montana, in his remarks to his fellow bishops. “Within two weeks, we may see a federal budgetary action with potentially catastrophic effects on the lives of our people, most especially children and the elderly, the seriously ill, the immigrant and our nation’s working poor.”

Referring to the House bill, known as AHCA, and its plan to “eliminate $880 billion from Medicaid over the next decade,” Bishop Thomas continued, “If left unchallenged or unmodified, this budget will destabilize our own Catholic health care apostolates, take food from the mouths of school-aged children and the homebound, and deny already scarce medical resources to the nation’s neediest in every state across the land.”

His passion growing as he spoke, Bishop Thomas concluded, “These are our people, our communities, our parishioners and members of our own beloved families. As a conference of bishops, we have the responsibility to read the signs of the times, to shine the light of the Gospel and Catholic social doctrine on this proposed budget.”

Bishop Thomas’ remarks drew appreciative applause from the U.S. bishops on the second day of their June 14-15 meeting.

He was the first bishop to speak following a report on health care reform by Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

In his report, Bishop Dewane also focused on how the U.S. Senate will soon turn its attention to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“The Catholic Church remains committed to ensuring the fundamental right to medical care, a right which is in keeping with the God-given dignity of every person,” Bishop Dewane said. “Both the lives of the unborn and adequate concern for those most in need anchor the USCCB’s messages to Congress at this critical time.”

He told his fellow bishops that the USCCB has been in constant contact with members of Congress since the House passed its version of a health care plan. Noting that the USCCB sent a letter to U.S. senators June 1, Bishop Dewane said, “It called on the Senate to strip away harmful promises of the AHCA or start anew with a better bill.”

The letter also provided recommendations and guiding principles for the senators as they craft their health care plan, starting with respect for life.

“No health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion,” Bishop Dewane said about that priority in his remarks.

He also stressed that all people should have access to comprehensive quality health care and that the cost of health care be affordable, keeping low-income families in consideration. Any health care plan should also respect the conscience rights of people, from patients to providers.

“Those without a strong voice in the process must not bear the brunt of the attempts to cut costs,” Bishop Dewane said. “The bishops stand ready to work with Congress to address problems with the Affordable Care Act in ways that protect the most vulnerable among us.

“This is an important moment for the country and for the church. The teaching we bring to bear on questions of health and health care do not fit neatly or really, in many cases, not at all, into the single party platforms,” he continued. “Because of this, the church has a unique voice. The committee’’s work on this issue will remain active and diligent for the sake of those most in need at all stages of life.”

Following Bishop Dewane’s report, other bishops joined Bishop Thomas in sharing their reactions with their fellow bishops.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago said, “The issue is about the human person. We need to make sure that we put forward that our position is that the state has a responsibility in creating solidarity within a country of caring for those most in need.”

Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego reflected on the comparison between the Affordable Care Act and the proposed plan that the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed to replace it.

“Health care is a fundamental human right, and government is its ultimate guarantor,” Bishop McElroy said. “The Affordable Care Act for all its flaws was a movement in favor of comprehensive health care. This is a movement away.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, encouraged his fellow bishops to remember people who live in rural areas as they seek a comprehensive health care plan.

“Medical care in the rural parts is in a very delicate state in terms of getting enough doctors and hospitals in those areas,” Archbishop Naumann noted.

He also viewed a call to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act as an opportunity for the country.

“There was a lot of dishonesty in the Affordable Care Act, not just about the conscience rights and what was done to the unborn,” he said. “It was a house of cards. The Medicaid provisions were not sustainable by states, I don’t think. Also, we see that many other parts of it were collapsing in terms of what was really available to people.”

Archbishop Naumann added, “The new plans hopefully will really be something that is sustainable. I think this is an opportunity to do something different from other parts of the world, and to really develop quality health care accessible to all.”

Before Bishop Dewane’s presentation, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, opened the agenda item on health care reform was introduced by saying, “We as bishops strive to engage in this debate as a voice for the voiceless, for the poor, the sick, the unborn.”

“We also strive to bring to the fore the many moral questions in health care that can affect human flourishing, from life’s earliest days to its very final moments,” the cardinal said. “Our teaching has much to offer the current discussions, and we have a unique obligation as bishops to make those teachings known. We are also very concerned with how this debate affects the ability of the church to engage in its venerable ministry of healing the sick.”

— By John Shaughnessy, assistant editor, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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Parish prays for congressman in critical condition after shooting

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Catholic News Service

METAIRIE, La. — More than 150 people attended a prayer service at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Metairie June 14 to pray for the recovery of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, and other victims of a shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, early that morning.

More than 150 people attend a prayer service at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Metairie, La., June 14 for the recovery of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and four others who were shot by a lone gunman while practicing in Alexandria, Va., for a charity baseball event. Scalise, his wife, Jennifer, and their two children are parishioners at the church. (CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald)

More than 150 people attend a prayer service at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Metairie, La., June 14 for the recovery of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and four others who were shot by a lone gunman while practicing in Alexandria, Va., for a charity baseball event. Scalise, his wife, Jennifer, and their two children are parishioners at the church. (CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald)

Scalise, his wife, Jennifer, and their two children are members of St. Catherine of Siena Parish. The congressman from the 1st District of Louisiana was gunned down by a lone gunman while practicing with other Republican members of the House and staffers for a charity baseball game.

Scalise sustained a bullet to the hip that also caused serious internal bleeding. After surgery, he was listed in critical condition, and as of early June 15, he remained in critical condition. He has received multiple blood transfusions. Doctors said he would require additional surgeries.

Father Ronald Calkins, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena, said the prayer service was for the shooting victims and also for those who mourn for them.

“We come here to pray to God, who is always with us and always supporting us and always helping us,” Father Calkins said. “We pray especially for those who were injured. Of course, we also come just to support each other.”

The group of House members and staff were at a baseball practice to prepare for the 56th annual Congressional Baseball Game, played each summer by members of Congress, when the shots rang out. The game will take place as scheduled June 15.

The suspected gunman was identified as James Hodgkinson of Illinois, who was shot by police and later died from his wounds. In addition to Scalise, four others were injured and transported to the hospital. They included two U.S. Capitol police officers who are on the congressman’s security detail.

“Even if all we did was to come into this church and there was no prayer service, and all we did was spend time in prayer quietly, we’re together, supporting each other. That’s very important,” Father Calkins said at the prayer service. “We also need to recommit ourselves to being people of peace, people of justice. Violence is never really the answer. Our Lord Jesus was a person of peace, a person of nonviolence, so we are his followers, his disciples. We call ourselves Christians because we follow Jesus Christ.”

Maria Naccari, who taught Scalise’s daughter Madison in prekindergarten at St. Catherine of Siena School, said she has always been impressed by the Scalise family’s down-to-earth attitude. When Scalise would show up with his security detail to pick up his children from school in the afternoon, she said, he never pulled rank or asked to come to the front of the line.

“They wait in line; there is no cut in line,” Naccari told the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the New Orleans Archdiocese. “They wait like everyone else, and he follows all the rules. It’s adorable. I think that’s what makes him so likable to everybody. They’re just regular people with a different job.”

“Sweet, sweet family, Mom and Dad totally involved with walking them to class. They are just normal, everyday parents. Unless you knew who he was, you would not know who he was, if that makes sense.”

Madison is entering fifth grade, and Harrison Scalise, their son, just made his first Communion and is going into third grade.

“I was very, very upset, just because he’s a genuine person,” Naccari said. “You don’t think of him as a politician, but as a real dad. You think of him as an involved, regular St. Catherine person. And you think of his wife in the same way. There’s no fluff about him. He’s a real dad, a common person, really a daddy.”

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Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

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Gregory: Bishops ‘can never say we are sorry enough’ for tragedy of abuse

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INDIANAPOLIS — Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said June 14 the U.S. Catholic bishops “can never say that we are sorry enough for the share that we have had in this tragedy of broken fidelity and trust,” the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory delivers the homily during Mass June 14 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual spring assembly. (CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory delivers the homily during Mass June 14 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual spring assembly. (CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)

He made the comments in the homily at an evening Mass said to commemorate a “Day of Prayer and Penance” for victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. The liturgy was celebrated at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis at the end of the first day of the bishops’ spring assembly.

“At this Mass, we bishops humbly and sincerely ask for the forgiveness of those who have been harmed, scandalized or dispirited by events that, even if they happened many years ago, remain ongoing sources of anguish for them and for those who love them,” he said.

“We bishops have learned a great deal about the sorrow and pain of those we love and serve, even as we have to acknowledge humbly, publicly and pitifully our share in bringing much of that pain to bear,” Archbishop Gregory said.

Pope Francis has summoned the bishops of the Catholic Church, he said, “to find occasions and opportunities to pray earnestly for God’s grace to bring about the healing and the reconciliation of those who have been harmed in this tragedy that has hurt far too many of his people and far too much of his church.”

“The Holy Father has called us respectfully to acknowledge our own share in causing the pain that so many are still enduring,” he said.

“At this Mass,” Archbishop Gregory continued, “we bishops humbly and sincerely ask for the forgiveness of those who have been harmed, scandalized or dispirited by events that, even if they happened many years ago, remain ongoing sources of anguish for them and for those who love them.”

The bishops “humbly seek forgiveness from the faith-filled people of our church and from our society at-large,” he said. But, he continued, they especially seek forgiveness “from those whose lives may have been devastated by our failure to care adequately for the little ones entrusted to us and for any decision that we made or should have made that exacerbated the sorrow and heartache that the entire church has felt and continues to feel for what we have done, and for what we have failed to do.”

Archbishop Gregory noted that the U.S. bishops have put many procedures in place to address the sex abuse crisis in the 15 years since they first approved the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

The charter emphasizes that the first obligation of the church toward victims of sexual abuse is to offer outreach and provide a path toward healing and reconciliation. The document also put in place a system for auditing how dioceses are complying with the charter and implementing procedures to address abuse cases and prevent abuse.

The bishops also created the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection and established the National Review Board, which oversees the audits.

These “procedural and educational expressions of our commitment to reform and renewal … are sincere, state-of-the-art and effective,” Archbishop Gregory said.

“Nevertheless, this expression of our sorrow,” he said, referring to the special Mass, “is far more important at this time, in this place, than any administrative process or training effort, however beneficial to the church and to the world.”

At the end of Mass, all the bishops knelt and recited a Prayer of Healing and Reconciliation.

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