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Chicago cardinal bolsters programs to break city’s cycle of violence

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Catholic News Service

CHICAGO — Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich April 4 announced a new initiative to increase the work of anti-violence programs in parishes and schools and those run by Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, Catholic Charities and Kolbe House, the archdiocese’s jail ministry.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago holds a letter from Pope Francis to the people of Chicago during an April 4 news conference where he announced an anti-violence initiative to increase the capacity and reach of current programs of the Chicago Archdiocese that address the root causes of violence. Pictured at right is Drew Hines, director of the Peace Corner Youth Center.  (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago holds a letter from Pope Francis to the people of Chicago during an April 4 news conference where he announced an anti-violence initiative to increase the capacity and reach of current programs of the Chicago Archdiocese that address the root causes of violence. Pictured at right is Drew Hines, director of the Peace Corner Youth Center. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

The Chicago archdiocese also will seek out partnerships to increase programs that will help break the cycle of violence.

The cardinal announced the initiatives on the 49th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

With a $250,000 personal donation, Cardinal Cupich said the archdiocese will create the Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund that will provide funds for both new and existing neighborhood-based anti-violence programs. The money comes from donations he’s received to aid his personal charitable efforts.

In 2018, the archdiocese also will hold the first U.S. meeting of Scholas Occurrentes, a program active in 100 countries that brings young people together to meet and problem-solve. The gathering will involve young people from Cook and Lake counties.

The announcements came during a news conference at the Peace Corner Youth Center, which serves young people in Chicago’s violence-prone Austin neighborhood. As of April 5, 773 people were shot in Chicago in 2017 and there were 151 homicides, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Cardinal Cupich also invited people to join him on a Walk for Peace through the city’s Englewood neighborhood on Good Friday, April 14. Like Austin, Englewood is a neighborhood that sees frequent shootings and crime. During the walk, participants will take part in the Stations of the Cross and pause along the way to remember those who died by violence. Along the route, participants will read the names of those killed in Chicago since January.

The cardinal said he shared these plans with Pope Francis when he met him in Rome recently. Pope Francis was moved by the news and drafted a letter to the people of Chicago, which the cardinal read at the news conference.

“I assure you of my support for the commitment you and many other local leaders are making to promote nonviolence as a way of life and a path to people in Chicago,” the letter stated.

The pope said he will be praying for those who will participate in the Good Friday walk.

“As I make my own Way of the Cross in Rome that day, I will accompany you in prayer, as well as all those who walk with you and who have suffered violence in the city,” the letter said.

Cardinal Cupich’s announcement of new initiatives follows a yearlong process he initiated to learn about the scope of anti-violence programs already going on in the archdiocese.

While no program will completely eradicate violence from the city, the cardinal said, “just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something. It’s going to take one person at a time.”

During his process of learning about the efforts in the archdiocese, Cardinal Cupich said he heard of many ways parishes and groups want to respond but lack the funding to do more. The Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund is for them.

“I see this as seed money for these local initiatives,” he said. “There really is no niche fund to support their efforts.”

He stressed the need for partnerships in these efforts.

“I can’t do it alone. I need the help of others,” Cardinal Cupich said.

Duriga is editor of the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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Have St. Jude relic, will travel

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Have you ever wanted to get up close and personal with one of the 12 Apostles?

Well, all you have to do is ask and St. Jude, or part of him anyway, will come to you.

This silver reliquary of St. Jude the Apostle is seen in an undated photo at the Dominican Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus in Chicago. The reliquary contains bones from the forearm of St. Jude. (CNS photo/Dominican Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus)

This silver reliquary of St. Jude the Apostle is seen in an undated photo at the Dominican Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus in Chicago. The reliquary contains bones from the forearm of St. Jude. (CNS photo/Dominican Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus)

That’s exactly what St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Oshkosh did. They contacted the Dominican Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus in Chicago, and the arm relic of St. Jude the Apostle came to them March 21, brought by Dominican Father Michail Ford, the shrine’s director. Just as he did for Blessed Sacrament Parish in Madison last July.

“We heard about that (visit to Madison),” said Rob Saley, who handles adult faith formation at St. Jude Parish. “We were very interested, because St. Jude is our patron here. I got in touch with (Father Mike) at the shrine.” And that’s how the March 21 visit was arranged.

There was an evening Mass, along with St. Jude devotions and a special blessing with the oil of St. Jude.

Since 1949, the St. Jude shrine at Chicago’s St. Pius V Church, has been the home of the relic of St. Jude, one of the Twelve Apostles. It is believed to be the largest relic of St. Jude outside of Rome.

The relic bone from the forearm of St. Jude, encased in a silver reliquary, was for centuries located in Armenia in the care of the Dominicans. As religious turmoil increased in the area, the Dominicans left the area, taking the relic with them, first to Turkey. Eventually, they ended up in Turin, Italy, in the 18th century.

Tradition says that St. Jude was martyred in Syria. His remains were later moved to Rome and today, most of his body rests in a tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica along with another apostle, St. Simon the Zealot. In the Western church, the two share a feast day Oct. 28. Among the Eastern churches, St. Jude’s feast is June 19.

In 1949, the Dominican Province of St. Peter Martyr in Turin gifted the arm relic to the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great (the Dominican central province of the United States). The relic was presented to St. Pius V Parish on the 20th anniversary of the founding of its shrine devoted to this patron saint of the impossible or desperate causes. The Chicago shrine was founded in 1929, after the stock market crash that started what became known as the Great Depression.

Into the 1960s, devotions to St. Jude were popular and the Chicago shrine had many Masses and prayer services. However, Father Ford noted, the saint’s popularity has since declined.

“So we decided to help people learn about them firsthand,” he told The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay. “In the past decade or so, we have started taking the relic on the road, so to speak. It occurred to one of my predecessors, a few years back, that the relic is simply too great a treasure and gift of the church to keep it locked away at St. Pius V in Chicago.”

Father Ford calls traveling with the relic :a page from the apostles; original plan: Take Jesus’ message of hope to the people.”

The Dominican priest is the saint’s official travel companion and he takes the relic on the road seven to eight times a year. “Wherever people want us to go, we’ll go,” he said.

Father Ford admits that, at first, “it was nerve-racking” to travel with such a prominent relic of a saint. And even now “I won’t let the case out of my sight,” he added.

That relic case is specially made, including inner foam molded to fit the reliquary — which is shaped like a right arm and hand. (Arm reliquaries were popular for a time — and are often of the right arm because that would be the one used to make blessings when the saint was on earth.) In the St. Jude reliquary, parts of the bone are visible. The case is crush-resistant and water-tight.

Traveling through the airports can be amusing for the priest, especially the X-ray machines.

“They look at it, and don’t know what to make of it,” Father Ford said. “They move (the conveyor belt) forward, back it up and look at again.”

Eventually, he hears a call: “Supervisor!”

However, once everything is explained, the priest often finds a welcome reception and even a chance to evangelize. “Almost all the time,” he said, “I hear them say, ‘That’s the coolest thing that’s ever been through my station.’”

Father Ford hears stories of healing as he travels with St. Jude’s relic. One happened in January 2016, during a visit to California’s Simi Valley. A woman had come all the way from Seattle to get some of the oil of St. Jude for her mother-in-law, who was battling cancer. The woman blessed her mother-in-law with the oil. Father Ford later heard from the woman that her mother’s blood-cell count reversed itself for the better after receiving the oil.

But Father Ford’s favorite story came when he met the late Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago at the St. Jude’s shrine’s 75th anniversary in 2004. The cardinal said that he remembered, as a child, his own mother, Julia, bringing him to the Chicago shrine. Cardinal George had suffered from polio as a child and his mother would also take home the vials of St. Jude oil and “slather it on” the boy’s legs.

“Cardinal George was very precise in his language,” Father Ford recalled. “He said, ‘I won’t say a miracle happened, but at a time when many people died from polio, I only came away with a limp.’”

The oil of St. Jude, Father Ford explained, is oil blessed with the relic, “almost the same way as one uses the St. Blaise blessing of the throat.”

 

Note: Dominican Father Michail Ford will bring the St. Jude relic to any parish that requests a visit. He also presents parish missions. More information is available at https://the-shrine.org.

by Patricia Kasten, associate editor of The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay.

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Senate vote allows states to redirect funds away from abortion clinics

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WASHINGTON — The Senate voted late March 30 to override a rule change made by in the last days of the Obama administration that prevented states from redirecting Title X family planning funding away from clinics that performed abortions and to community clinics that provide comprehensive health care.

People pass a Planned Parenthood clinic March 17 in New York City. The U.S. Senate voted March 30 to let states cut off funds for Planned Parenthood. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

People pass a Planned Parenthood clinic March 17 in New York City. The U.S. Senate voted March 30 to let states cut off funds for Planned Parenthood. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

“The clear purpose of this Title X rule change was to benefit abortion providers like Planned Parenthood,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

“Congress has done well to reverse this very bad public policy, and to restore the ability of states to stop one stream of our tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood and redirect it to community health centers that provide comprehensive primary and preventive health care,” he said in a March 31 statement.

Midday March 30, Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate, cast a tiebreaking vote that allowed Senate action to proceed on a joint resolution to block the Obama-era regulation that went into Jan. 18, two days before President Barack Obama left office.

Pence also had to cast a second tiebreaking vote so the Senate could pass the measure.

The joint resolution, H.J. Res. 43, was introduced in the House by Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee. It passed 230 to 188 on Feb. 16, a vote that was largely along party lines.

In the Senate, the measure was introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. Her fellow Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against allowing the legislation to move forward and then against the bill itself.

Republicans control the Senate by only a 52-48 margin, so Pence was called on twice to break a 50-50 tie. Now the measure goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.

Title X of the Public Health Services Act was passed by Congress in 1970 to control population growth by distributing contraceptives to low-income families. Planned Parenthood is the largest recipient of Title X funding. Planned Parenthood also is the nation’s largest abortion network — performing over a third of all abortions in the U.S. It receives more than half a billion dollars in federal funding each year.

Under the Hyde Amendment, federal funding for abortion already is prohibited, but federal family planning funds were allowed to go to clinics and facilities for other health services.

States have been acting on their own to prohibit Title X funding to agencies performing abortions.

The joint resolution is one of a series of bills Congress has passed under the Congressional Review Act, which allows federal regulations put in place during the final days of the previous administration to be rescinded by simple majority passage.

In a letter to House members urging them to vote for H.J. Res. 43, National Right to Life wrote: “Long-standing objections to the massive governmental funding of PPFA (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) have been reinforced by widely publicized undercover videos, which illuminate the callous brutality that occurs daily in these abortion mills.”

After the House vote, Ernst said in a statement she was “committed to restoring our states’ ability to make their own decisions about the best eligible Title X providers for folks.”

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Pro-life advocates who made undercover videos charged with 15 felonies

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two California pro-life advocates are facing 15 felonies for making undercover videos of Planned Parenthood affiliate officials alleging they committed improprieties regarding fetal tissue and organs.

David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, has been charged with 15 felonies for making undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials (CNS file/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, has been charged with 15 felonies for making undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials (CNS file/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

California prosecutors March 28 charged David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress in Irvine with felonies for filming 14 people without permission between October 2013 and July 2015 in Los Angeles, San Francisco and El Dorado counties. One felony count was filed for each person and the 15th count was for criminal conspiracy to invade privacy, AP reported.

In a statement posted on the website of the Irvine center he founded, Daleiden said the “bogus charges from Planned Parenthood’s political cronies are fake news.”

“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in announcing the charges. “We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”

In the videos, Planned Parenthood officials are shown discussing the illegal marketing and sale of fetal tissue with Daleiden and Merritt, who posed as representatives of a mythical fetal tissue procurement firm.

Planned Parenthood said any allegations it “profits in any way from tissue donation is not true” and that any money it received from labs were processing fees.

“As we have said from the beginning and as more than a dozen different state investigations have made clear: Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong, and the only people who broke the law are those behind the fraudulent tapes,” Mary Alice Carter, interim vice president of communications of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement March 28.

“The California attorney general filing criminal charges sends a clear message that you cannot target women and you cannot target health care providers without consequences,” she said. “We look forward to justice being served.”

Daleiden and Merritt’s videos showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing fees related to fetal tissue, but the organization said monies it received were standard reimbursement fees charged to researchers. But in the fall of 2015, Cecile Richards, the CEO of Planned Parenthood, announced the organization would no longer accept the reimbursements.

In his statement, Daleiden said the public “knows the real criminals are Planned Parenthood and their business partners like StemExpress and DV Biologics, currently being prosecuted in California, who have harvested and sold aborted baby body parts for profit for years in direct violation of state and federal law.”

Last October, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas filed a lawsuit against DV Biologics and its sister company, DaVinci Biosciences, in Orange County Superior Court.

The lawsuit accuses the two Yorba Linda medical companies of advertising and selling hundreds of units of fetal tissue and stem cells to research facilities around the world, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

Rackauckas, in announcing the lawsuits, said the companies treated human parts as commodities rather than following the law.

“We look forward to showing the entire world what is on our yet-unreleased videotapes of Planned Parenthood’s criminal baby body parts enterprise, in vindication of the First Amendment rights of all,” Daleiden added in his statement.

A member of his legal defense team, Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Chicago-based pro-life law firm Thomas More Society, said Daleiden and co-defendant Merritt “will be vindicated.”

“They will assert robust defenses to these charges,” Brejcha said in a statement March 28. “Their efforts were in furtherance of First Amendment values and are clothed with the same constitutional protection that all investigative journalists deserve and must enjoy. Undercover journalism has been a vital tool in our politics and self-governance.”

 

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‘Encuentro’ process begins — Planning more involvement for Latinos in church in U.S.

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In Spanish, the word “encuentro” means encounter and in the modern church in the U.S., it refers to a series of meetings that will take place over the next four years aimed at getting to know Latinos and producing more involvement in the church of its second largest and fastest growing community.

“The intent is for Latinos to have an encounter with the entire church and for the church to have an encounter with Latinos, understanding who they are, how they think, how they live their faith, so we can work together and move together and build a church together,” said Mar Munoz-Visoso, executive director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Members of Our Holy Redeemer Church in Freeport, N.Y., pass a sponge soaked in water during a team competition at the annual Encuentro gathering in 2016 at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, N.Y. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

Members of Our Holy Redeemer Church in Freeport, N.Y., pass a sponge soaked in water during a team competition at the annual Encuentro gathering in 2016 at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, N.Y. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

A recent report by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University commissioned by the U.S. bishops shows that more than half of millennial-generation Catholics born in 1982 or later are Hispanic or Latino. Those numbers alone call for the church to have a plan of how it will bring Latinos in the U.S. into the church’s leaderships roles, its vocations and their role in society, Munoz-Visoso said.

“You cannot plan the future of the church without having an important conversation about this population,” she told Catholic News Service. “This effort is very important.”

While the numbers of Latinos in the church are growing, “there is a gap between the numbers of Latinos in the pews, and the numbers of Latinos in leadership, and the numbers of vocations, or (Latino students) in Catholic schools,” Munoz-Visoso said.

The first part of encuentro, as the process is called, started in early 2017 and it’s the fifth such process of its kind. Encuentros in the U.S. church took place in 1972, 1977, 1985 and 2000, but the Fifth National Encuentro, also known as “V Encuentro,” is expected to be the biggest one of its kind in terms of attendance.

Participants first meet in small Christian communities at the local level to discern, dialogue, reflect about faith and the baptismal call, Munoz-Visoso said. Later in the year, parishes will hold parish encuentros of their own, which will later lead to diocesan, regional and finally a nationwide encuentro, set for Sept. 20-23, 2018, in Grapevine, Texas, in the Diocese of Fort Worth. The final part is a “post-national encuentro” that will include publishing a national working document about ways to implement what was learned during the process.

Encuentro organizers hope the process will yield an increase in vocations of Latinos to the priesthood, religious life, permanent diaconate, an increase in the percentage of Latino students enrolling at Catholic schools, and create a group of Latino leaders for the church, as well as an increase Latinos’ sense of belonging and stewardship in the U.S. church.

At the fall 2016 meeting of U.S. bishops in Baltimore, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley expressed concern that the younger generations of Latinos “is a demographic that is slipping away from the church and I think we have a window of opportunity and the window of opportunity is closing.”

Many Latinos are “joining the ranks of ‘nones,’” said Cardinal O’Malley, referring to the growing number of Americans who are choosing to be unaffiliated with any organized religion.

“We have very few, relatively, Hispanics in our Catholic schools. They’re underrepresented in our religious education programs, and I’m hoping that the outreach that is going to be done as part of the preparation for this ‘encuentro’ will make a difference,” he said.

Munoz-Visoso said Latinos are being courted by all kinds of groups, not just other church denominations.

“And we are at this juncture in history where we have this dilemma, where the majority of the Catholic Church in the country is becoming Latino, but at the same time, more Latinos than ever are leaving the church,” she said. “So, we have to address this situation because we have to really engage them, re-enamor them, their faith and make sure they’re committed to their faith.”

For those wanting to become involved, they can contact their local parish to see if the parish is involved in the process. More than 5,000 parishes have signed up to participate, said Munoz-Visoso.

Parish-level encuentros take place this May and June. Diocesan encuentros will take place in the fall in more than 150 dioceses with a total of 200,000 participants. The regional encuentros are slated for March-June 2018, with 10,000 delegates expected to attend. The regions conform to the U.S. bishops’ 14 episcopal regions. Then comes the Fifth National Encuentro in Texas, which will have as its theme “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love.” This is then followed by the post-encuentro working document.

Alejandro Aquilera-Ttitus, assistant director of Hispanic affairs in the diversity secretariat, is national coordinator of the Fifth National Encuentro.

The materials for the encuentro meetings were designed so they could be used by small and large groups, Munoz-Visoso told CNS, and there are dioceses that plan to use them with migrant workers in the fields, among prison populations, on university campuses, in prison ministry and in military services so that U.S. service men and women who want to participate can do so anywhere in the world.

“The intent is for Latinos … but we’re inviting everybody (to participate), if they want to have it in their community,” Munoz-Visoso said, adding that the website www.vencuentro.org has information about getting started.

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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New U.S. health care bill withdrawn after if falls short of votes in the House of Representatives

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, doesn’t mince words when it comes to the American Health Care Act, which was short of votes and withdrawn by House Republicans late March 24.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan recommended March 24 that President Trump withdraw the American Health Care Act when it didn't have enough votes in the House. (CNS/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan recommended March 24 that President Trump withdraw the American Health Care Act when it didn’t have enough votes in the House. (CNS/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

Two days before the GOP legislation was set for an initial vote in Congress and then delayed due to last-minute wrangling and efforts to gain support, she described the bill as a disgrace, a pro-life disaster, a huge step back, catastrophic for Catholic social teaching and something that would do incredible damage.

The woman religious, who heads an organization of more than 600 hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health facilities in the United States, has a vested interest in the nation’s health care and she also knows the ins and outs of health care legislation from working behind the scenes “forever,” as she describes it, on the Affordable Care Act.

At the time that the ACA was being drafted, some Catholic organizations opposed key elements of the measure. Once it became law, more than 40 lawsuits were filed to challenge the subsequent Department of Health and Human Service’s mandate requiring that insurance plans include coverage for artificial birth control, sterilization and drugs that lead to abortions.

Sister Keehan is quick to point out that the health care legislation signed into law seven years ago is far from perfect, but she says it was an “incredible step forward.”

“I do recognize the political conflict and the imperfections in the bill, but when you can make insurance that much better for people who have it and give 20 million Americans insurance, that is a huge step forward,” she said March 21 in her Washington office.

At a 2015 Catholic Health Association gathering in Washington, President Barack Obama thanked Sister Keehan for her steadiness, strength and “steadfast voice.”

“We would not have gotten the Affordable Care Act done had it not been for her,” he said.

The immediate repeal and replacement of the ACA was a key promise of President Donald Trump’s campaign, but the GOP health care measure has faced opposition from both conservative and moderate Republicans. Trump told House Republicans that he will leave ACA in place and move on to tax reform if they do not support the new health care legislation.

Watching the GOP efforts to repeal and replace the ACA has been hard for Sister Keehan mainly because she and other health care leaders were not consulted in the process.

“We should never, ever throw together a bill that’s going to be such a profound impact on the people of this country in this short of time and without any input from those who care for them,” she said.

The work on these two health care bills couldn’t have been more different, she pointed out, noting that prior to the ACA launch she felt like she “lived in committee rooms” because she was constantly meeting with committees, groups and subgroups at the White House and Congress.

With the GOP health care plan, she said there wasn’t any opportunity for hospital groups or the American Medical Association to give any advice.

“We’ve just been dismissed,” she said, noting that she attended a few small group meetings on Capitol Hill but “they were not meetings to get our input on what ought to be done with the bill but meetings to tell us what was going to be done.”

“This has just been railroaded through Congress,” she added.

While the U.S. bishops have applauded pro-life elements of the American Health Care Act, they also have criticized other elements and expressed concern for its impact on the disadvantaged.

In a March 17 letter to House members about the GOP measure, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the inclusion of “critical life protections” in the House health care bill is laudable, but other provisions, including those related to Medicaid and tax credits are “troubling” and “must be addressed.”

He said the bill’s restriction of funds to providers that promote abortion and prohibiting federal funding for abortion or the purchase of plans that provide abortion “honors a key moral requirement for our nation’s health care policy.” But he also criticized the absence of “any changes” from the current law regarding conscience protections against mandates to provide certain coverage or services considered morally objectionable by employers and health care providers.

“The ACA is, by no means, a perfect law,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Catholic bishops of the United States registered serious objections at the time of its passage. However, in attempting to improve the deficiencies of the ACA, health care policy ought not create other unacceptable problems, particularly for those who struggle on the margins of our society.”

Main provisions of the new House bill include: eliminating the mandate that most individuals have health insurance and putting in its place a new system of tax credits; expanding Health Savings Accounts; repealing Medicaid expansion and transitioning to a “per capita allotment”; and prohibiting health insurers from denying coverage or charging more money to patients based on pre-existing conditions.

Sister Keehan said she thanked Bishop Dewane for his letter to Congress and said the bishops had carefully gone through the legislation measure by measure on a number of issues. She also noted that she knows people in the pro-life community either think the new bill is strong enough or not doing enough.

As she sees it, the bill is “a pro-life disaster in the fact that when you take health care away from people, you take life.”

“If you want to really, really strengthen the pro-life culture in this country, you make sure people know that their lives and the lives of their children are so valued by our country,” she said, which means providing quality maternity and pediatric care and offering programs like Head Start and food stamps.

Although she said under the ACA no federal funds could be spent on abortion, a nonpartisan government agency in an assessment of the law in 2014 said abortion coverage was available in some plans. Sister Keehan also said the law included help for pregnant mothers to get drug rehabilitation, housing and maternity care, which are not included in the new bill.

“I don’t find this a pro-life bill at all from every perspective,” she added about the new measure.

When asked if there was a silver lining with people at least talking about the need to provide insurance for all Americans, Sister Keehan said the health care crisis for so many people doesn’t give “the luxury of time.”

“To be the only industrialized nation in the world that does not guarantee all its citizens health care is a disgrace,” she said, adding: “We are at a real crossroads in our country’s sense of its responsibility to its people.”

 

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Bishop briefs Tillerson on church’s interest in building the ‘common good’

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace met with the country’s top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, March 23, for a policy-packed 35-minute conversation about immigration, the Middle East, Africa and the role of the Catholic Church’s efforts toward building “the common good.”

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., gestures during a March 23 meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., gestures during a March 23 meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

“After some small talk about Texas,” the two spoke about the Middle East, about Iraq and Syria, reaching out to Central America and Mexico, and the situation in Africa, said Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, explaining his initial meeting in Washington with Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state, who, like Bishop Cantu, hails from Texas.

Bishop Cantu said the meeting was about letting Tillerson know “that our only motive is to help build the common good, that we don’t have ulterior motives,” and explaining the bishops’ peace and justice committee’s work in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the Far East.

Bishop Cantu, as the chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, has spoken for a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict, against the construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, for reducing the United States’ nuclear arsenal, and raised concerns about an executive order that targets refugees from some countries with predominantly Muslim populations, which are at odds with stances taken early by the Donald Trump administration.

“I have concerns,” he said in an interview with Catholic News Service, but said the meeting with Tillerson was about establishing a relationship that can help the church advocate for policy issues to help the common good.

“We bring a unique perspective,” said Bishop Cantu. “One of our principles in Catholic social teaching is the common good and that goes beyond our own church needs.”

Bishop Cantu said he talked about the church’s efforts in Congo and South Sudan and the need for stability in such places. U.N. agencies said in February that famine and war in the area are threatening up to 5.5 million lives in the region.

Because of the church’s humanitarian agencies, its solidarity visits, and long-term contact with local governments and populations around the world, the church lends a credible voice, Bishop Cantu said.

“He expressed that he was eager to have open lines of communication with us and to listen to our perspective on things,” Bishop Cantu said.

“The two areas we especially touched on were the Middle East and how to rebuild in Iraq and Syria. And the second topic that he wanted to hear our perspective on is the immigration issue, particularly how to reach out to Central America and Mexico,” said Bishop Cantu.

He said he emphasized to Tillerson the importance of having countries where religious minorities have a say in the government and of investing in rebuilding countries. The proposed Trump administration budget has been criticized for its plans to slash funding for the State Department up to 28 percent, or $10.9 billion. The cuts would greatly affect the department’s Food for Peace Program, which reduces hunger and malnutrition in poor countries, while proposing a $54 billion, or 10 percent, increase in military spending.

Bishop Cantu said he left information with Tillerson about the church’s concerns with the proposed budget.

“We’re concerned about the very steep increase in the military budget, the cutting back on foreign aid, we’re very concerned about that. I did want to emphasize how important development is in regions that need to be stabilized,” he said, “that those are wise investments of time and funds.”

The meeting also included a discussion about Christians in the Middle East, Bishop Cantu said, “and that Christians don’t want to live in a ghetto. … They believe it’s important that they live in an integrated society that is safe and secure,” to have a voice in local, regional as well federal government. He said he also emphasized “the fact that the (Catholic) church in the Middle East can act as a voice between the Sunnis and the Shia” and the importance of the church remaining in places such as Iraq and Syria.

“Any wise government official wants to listen to the voice of people who have a stake in different areas and to listen to the wisdom of experience,” Bishop Cantu said. “We have our brothers and sisters there, the church, who do live there. The fact is that … we bring a trusted voice.

“We bring some wisdom to the conversation,” he added. “Our vision is to build a society that’s stable, that’s just, that’s peaceful, and ultimately, that’s the goal of the state department … and so I think that’s why our voice is valuable to them.”

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

 

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Cardinal Keeler, retired archbishop of Baltimore, dies at 86

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Cardinal William H. Keeler, Baltimore’s 14th archbishop, who was an international leader in Catholic-Jewish relations and the driving force behind the restoration of America’s first cathedral, died March 23 at his residence at St. Martin’s Home for the Aged in Catonsville. He was 86.

The archdiocese said the cardinal will lie in repose March 27 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore. His funeral will be celebrated March 28 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, also in Baltimore.

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Bishop Malooly mourns passing of Baltimore’s Cardinal Keeler

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Bishop Malooly released the following statement March 23 on the death of Cardinal William Keeler, the 14th Archbishop of Baltimore:

 

“I am saddened to learn of the passing of my dear friend and mentor, Cardinal Keeler. I served with him in the Archdiocese of Baltimore for 18 years as his vicar general and moderator of the curia. We communicated daily, in person or by phone, for all of those years. He was a model shepherd, brilliant teacher, and tireless advocate for interfaith bonds, the sanctity of life, and Catholic education. He was a thoughtful, considerate, and humble man who will be missed dearly.

Cardinal Keeler in 2010 (CNS photo)

Cardinal Keeler in 2010 (CNS photo)

“I offer my heart-felt condolences to Cardinal Keeler’s sister, Julia; his niece, Julie; and his extended family. I join with Archbishop Lori, the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Cardinal Keeler’s countless friends around the world as we pray that he may enter the joy of his eternal Master to receive the rewards of his labors.”

Bishop Malooly, a native of Baltimore, was ordained to the priesthood in 1970. He has served as parish priest, retreat house administrator, chancellor, vicar general and auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Baltimore until July 7, 2008, when Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Malooly the ninth Bishop of Wilmington. He was installed to that post on Sept. 8, 2008.

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From Catholic News Service:

Cardinal Keeler, retired archbishop of Baltimore, dies at 86

BALTIMORE — Cardinal William H. Keeler, the retired archbishop of Baltimore who was known for his vital role in ecumenical and interreligious relations, died early March 23 at St. Martin’s Home for the Aged in the Baltimore suburb of Catonsville. He was 86.

The Baltimore archdiocese said funeral arrangements were being finalized.

“One of the great blessings in my life was coming to know Cardinal Keeler,” said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori in a statement. “Cardinal Keeler will be greatly missed. I am grateful to the Little Sisters for their devoted care for the cardinal.”

Cardinal Keeler was the bishop of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, when he was appointed the 14th archbishop of Baltimore in 1989. Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal in 1994. He retired in 2007. As president of the U.S. bishops’ conference from 1992-95, he participated in a wide range of national and international issues.

Baltimore Cardinal William H. Keeler speaks from the floor of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops fall general meeting in Washington Nov. 11 in this 2003 file photo. (CNS photo by Paul Haring) (Nov. 12, 2003)

Baltimore Cardinal William H. Keeler speaks from the floor of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops fall general meeting in Washington Nov. 11 in this 2003 file photo. (CNS photo by Paul Haring) (Nov. 12, 2003)

As part of his work with what is now the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Keeler developed a reputation for effectively building interfaith bonds. He is particularly noted for his work in furthering Catholic-Jewish dialogue. He was appointed moderator of Catholic-Jewish Relations for the USCCB.

Cardinal Keeler’s death leaves the College of Cardinals with 223 members, 17 of whom are from the United States. The College of Cardinals has 117 members under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave.

Archbishop Lori remarked on “the respect and esteem” in which the late prelate was held by his brother bishops, and praised his leadership in Jewish-Catholic relations and in Orthodox-Catholic relations. Archbishop Lori also said he was known for his “prowess as a church historian” and had a “deep love and respect for the history and heritage of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.”

Cardinal Keeler was an ardent promoter of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the sanctity of all human life. He twice served as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities and testified at all levels of government on legislation ranging from abortion to euthanasia to capital punishment.

 

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U.S. bishops ask Catholics ‘to accompany’ migrants, refugees seeking better life

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops in a pastoral reflection released March 22 called all Catholics to do what each of them can “to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.”

Titled “Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times,” the reflection was issued “in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands,” said a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

People in San Diego demonstrate in support of migrants and refugees Feb. 18. The U.S. bishops in a pastoral reflection released March 22 called all Catholics to do what each of them can "to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States." (CNS photo/David Maung, EPA)

People in San Diego demonstrate in support of migrants and refugees Feb. 18. The U.S. bishops in a pastoral reflection released March 22 called all Catholics to do what each of them can “to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.” (CNS photo/David Maung, EPA)

“To live as a people of God is to live in the hope of the Resurrection,” said the reflection, which was approved by the USCCB Administrative Committee on the first day of a two-day meeting in Washington.

The 50-member committee is made up of the executive officers of the USCCB, elected committee chairmen and elected regional representatives. It acts on behalf of the nation’s bishops between the twice-yearly general meetings.

“To live in Christ is to draw upon the limitless love of Jesus to fortify us against the temptation of fear,” it continued. “Pray that our engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues may bring peace and comfort to those most affected by current and proposed national policy changes.”

The bishops urged Catholics to pray for an end to the root causes of violence and other circumstances forcing families to flee their homeland to find a better life; to meet with newcomers in their parishes and “listen to their story, and share your own”; and to call, write or visit their elected representatives to ask them to fix our broken immigration system “in a way that would safeguard the country’s security and “our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.”

The statement opened with a passage from Chapter 19 of the Book of Leviticus: “The word of God is truly alive today. When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.”

The bishops urged Catholics to “not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life. They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future.”

“As shepherds of a pilgrim church,” they wrote, “we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: “We are with you.”

Those families could include “a family seeking security from an increased threat of extremist violence,” they said, adding that “it is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity.”

The bishops said that “intense debate is essential to healthy democracy, but the rhetoric of fear does not serve us well.”

“When we look at one another, do we see with the heart of Jesus?” they asked.

Their pastoral reflection comes at a time when the Trump administration’s rhetoric and its policies on national security, refugees and immigration are in the headlines almost daily. Those policies have sparked almost nonstop protests in various parts of the country since President Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. In some cases, the anti-Trump demonstrations have turned violent.

The latest action on the refugee issue came March 16 when two federal judges blocked Trump’s new executive order banning for 90 days the entry into the U.S. of citizens from six Muslim-majority nations and suspending for 120 days the resettlement of refugees. Two federal judges, one in Hawaii and one in Maryland, blocked the order before it was to take effect March 16 at midnight.

The Department of Justice announced March 17 it will appeal the Maryland ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which is based in Richmond, Virginia.

In their reflection, the bishops said that all in this country find “common dreams for our children” in their “diverse backgrounds.”

“Hope in the next generation is how the nation will realize its founding motto, ‘out of many, one,’” they said. “In doing so, we will also realize God’s hope for all his children: that we would see each other as valued sisters and brothers regardless of race, religion or national origin.”

Christ, as the word made flesh, “strengthens us to bring our words to life,” they said, and suggested three ways Catholics, “in our own small way,” can “bring our words of solidarity for migrants and refugees to life”: by praying, welcoming newcomers and writing to their elected representatives urging them to support humane immigration policies.

“Pray for an end to the root causes of violent hatred that force mothers and fathers to flee the only home they may have known in search of economic and physical security for their children,” the bishops said.

They asked Catholics to meet with newcomers in their parishes, and to “listen to their story and share your own.” The bishops noted parishes across the country have programs for immigrants and refugees “both to comfort them and to help them know their rights.”

They also urged Catholics to “to reach out in loving dialogue to those who may disagree with us. The more we come to understand each other’s concerns the better we can serve one another. Together, we are one body in Christ.”

Finally, Catholics should call, write or visit their elected officials urging they “fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.”

The reflection ended with a quote from Pope Francis: “To migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey toward our heavenly homeland.”

 

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