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International gathering celebrates 50 years of Catholic Charismatic Renewal

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Catholic News Service

PITTSBURGH — Followers of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal came back to where it all began.

Some 6,200 of them gathered for the 2017 Jubilee Conference July 20-23 in Pittsburgh under the theme of “Rivers of Living Water.” The gathering included some 2,000 people from Haiti and a large number of Latinos.

People pray July 20 during the Catholic Charismatic Renewal's 50th Jubilee Conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in  Pittsburgh. (CNS photo/John Franko, Pittsburgh Catholic)

People pray July 20 during the Catholic Charismatic Renewal’s 50th Jubilee Conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. (CNS photo/John Franko, Pittsburgh Catholic)

“We are celebrating a current of grace that is 50 years young,” said Franciscan Father Dave Pivonka during his homily at the opening Mass. It “is ever-ancient and ever-new.”

The main celebrant at the Mass was retired Pittsburgh Auxiliary Bishop William J. Winter, as Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik continues to recover from recent back surgery.

General session speakers included Patti Mansfield, an original participant in the “Duquesne Weekend,” where the Catholic Charismatic Renewal began; Damian Stayne, founder of the community Cor et Lumen Christi; Msgr. Joseph Malagreca, coordinator of the Haitian and Hispanic Charismatic Renewal Center in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York; and retired Bishop Sam G. Jacobs of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, who is a longtime key figure in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

“If we want to receive more of the Holy Spirit, we have to pray,” said Mansfield during her address.

In describing her experience, she held up the 25-cent notebook that she had brought with her for the February 1967 weekend at The Ark and The Dove center in northern Allegheny County. She pointed to phrases she had written, such as “Jesus, be real for me” and “I want a miracle.” But never did she envision, she said, that what happened at the weekend would lead to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

She spoke of the irony that the experiences of a group of about 12 “insignificant young people” could lead to a movement of some 120 million Catholics worldwide. But she pointed out that the origins of the movement could never be traced to any one person. The beginning can be found only in God.

As part of the conference, bus tours were offered to The Ark and The Dove, and a large percentage of the conference attendees took advantage of the opportunity.

In fact, Father John Sweeney, pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish in Glenshaw, a Pittsburgh suburb, said July 22 that the number of visitors to the retreat center was overwhelming to the organizers. Many went by bus, but others drove their cars and just showed up hoping to tour the historic buildings.

Involved in the charismatic movement since he was ordained in 1973, Father Sweeney said he was pleased to have the 50th anniversary gathering in Pittsburgh, the fourth such meeting in the area.

“This weekend has been a great blessing for the diocese,” he told the Pittsburgh Catholic, the diocesan newspaper. “People tell me how beautiful the city is, so I think they’re glad to be here.”

Father Pivonka said that the Catholic Charismatic Renewal highlights the diversity of the church.

The priest pointed to the “channel of grace” referenced by Pope Francis with regard to the movement, adding, “The church has been drinking for the past 50 years from the well.”

He recalled how his life was transformed at age 20 when he experienced the full measure of the Spirit while a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. He touched on the conference theme by noting that, while a pond may dry out, a river never will.

“Rest and celebrate the current of grace, and hold on and go where it takes us from here,” he said.

Between conference sessions July 22, Bishop Jacobs called the gathering “a celebration of what God has done over 50 years. But it’s also a time to look forward to the future, to renew that vision that God has given us as the renewal. And that’s to bring this grace of Pentecost into the heart of the church.”

A highlight of the gathering was a Holy Hour and candlelight procession from the convention center, across the Roberto Clemente Bridge to Allegheny Landing Park on the North Shore by thousands of participants.

More information on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is available at www.nsc-chariscenter.org.

By John Franko, a staff writer at the Pittsburgh Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

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Bishop urges Senate to remedy health care for the ‘common good’ — Updated

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — After the Senate voted July 25 to proceed with the health care debate, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., urged senators of both parties to “work together to advance changes that serve the common good.”

A rainbow shines over the U.S. Capitol in Washington July 24. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

A rainbow shines over the U.S. Capitol in Washington July 24. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

The statement from Bishop Dewane, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the health care reform proposals currently under consideration would “harm millions of struggling Americans by leaving too many at risk of losing adequate health coverage and continue to exclude too many people, including immigrants.”

“We are grateful for the efforts to include protections for the unborn, however, any final bill must include full Hyde Amendment provisions and add much-needed conscience protections. The current proposals are simply unacceptable as written, and any attempts to repeal the ACA (Affordable Care Act) without a concurrent replacement is also unacceptable,” he said in a July 25 statement.

During the procedural vote on the Senate floor, 50 Republicans voted yes and two GOP senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted no, along with the Senate’s 48 Democrats. The tiebreaking vote was necessary from Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate.

The vote to debate health care legislation took place after months of ongoing discussion and leaves Senate Republicans with a few options, including completely replacing the health care law, or voting for what has been described as a “skinny” repeal that would remove parts of the Affordable Care Act. They also could pass a measure that would repeal the current law without implementing a replacement.

Late July 25, the Senate voted down one of these proposals in a 57-43 vote with nine Republicans voting against it. The proposal — an updated version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act — would have done away with the ACA’s tax penalties for those not buying insurance, cut Medicaid and allowed insurers to sell cheaper policies with less coverage. It also included $100 billion in extra funds to help people losing Medicaid.

Senators were expected to vote on a “repeal-only” proposal July 26 that also was likely to face defeat since many in both parties have spoken against repealing the ACA without a replacement plan.

As votes were being cast, all eyes were on Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who returned to the Senate floor just days after being diagnosed with brain cancer, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, who had not assured the Senate of his vote prior to the tally.

Just prior to the procedural vote, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, majority leader, urged fellow senators not to let this moment slip by.

“All we have to do today is to have the courage to begin the debate,” he added as protesters yelled in the background: “Kill the bill, don’t kill us.” “Shame.”

“Will we begin the debate on one of the most important issues confronting America today?” he asked before answering: “It is my hope that the answer will be yes.”

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, minority leader, stressed that Democrats had been locked out of the recent health care debate and he warned that the Republican plan will “certainly mean drastic cuts” in Medicaid and would cause many to lose health care insurance.

McCain urged his colleagues to “trust each other” and “return to order” after casting his vote to move the debate forward.

In his July 25 statement, Bishop Dewane said, “There is much work to be done to remedy the ACA’s shortcomings” and he called on the Senate to make the necessary changes.

He also stressed that “current and impending barriers to access and affordability under the ACA must be removed, particularly for those most in need. Such changes can be made with narrower reforms that do not jeopardize the access to health care that millions currently receive,” he added.

Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, said in a July 26 statement that she was disappointed with the Senate’s vote to attempt to repeal and replace the ACA “without a clear plan to protect access to affordable health care coverage.”

She said that throughout the health care reform debate, Catholic Charities has insisted that any reform must protect those who have health care coverage and provide more health insurance to those without it.

“We urge senators to work together to reject dramatic cuts to Medicaid coverage and provide a health care bill that truly expands coverage, reduces costs and respects human life and dignity, especially for those who are most in need,” she said.

 

Carolyn Mackenzie contributed to this report. Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Catholic leaders mourn ‘senseless deaths’ in trafficking tragedy

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SAN ANTONIO — The “completely senseless deaths” of 10 people who died of heat exhaustion and suffocation they suffered from being held in a tractor-trailer “is an incomprehensible tragedy,” said Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio.

Police officers in San Antonio work a crime scene at Walmart July 23 after eight people were found dead inside an 18-wheeler truck. Several others were hospitalized in critical condition and the death toll reached 10 as of early July 24. Authorities say the truck was smuggling immigrants into the U.S. from Mexico and Central America. (CNS photo/Ray Whitehouse, Reuters)

Police officers in San Antonio work a crime scene at Walmart July 23 after eight people were found dead inside an 18-wheeler truck. Several others were hospitalized in critical condition and the death toll reached 10 as of early July 24. Authorities say the truck was smuggling immigrants into the U.S. from Mexico and Central America. (CNS photo/Ray Whitehouse, Reuters)

“There are no words to convey the sadness, despair and, yes, even anger we feel today,” he said in a statement released late July 23.

Earlier in the day, San Antonio law enforcement officials found eight bodies inside the trailer of an 18-wheeler sitting in the parking lot of a Walmart. The eight people who died were among 39 people packed in the trailer and suffering from extreme dehydration and heatstroke. At least 20 others rescued from the truck were in critical condition and transported to the hospital. Two later died, and by July 24 the death toll was at least 10.

In a July 24 statement, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration said the nation’s Catholic bishops joined their voices in mourning the loss of life and condemning the treatment of migrants, many of whom were from Mexico and Guatemala, in a suspected human trafficking operation.

“The loss of lives is tragic and avoidable. We condemn this terrible human exploitation that occurred and continues to happen in our country,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin.

“In a moment such as this, we reflect upon the words of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, ‘The defense of human beings knows no barriers: We are all united wanting to ensure a dignified life for every man, woman and child who is forced to abandon his or her own land,’” Bishop Vasquez said.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus called it “a horrific tragedy” and said it was being looked at as “a human trafficking crime.”

AP reported that James Matthew Bradley, 60, of Clearwater, Fla., believed to be the driver of the tractor-trailer, was a suspect in the case and had been arrested on charges of smuggling.

San Antonio is about 150 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The temperature in the Texas city July 23 was 101 degrees all day and well into late evening. The human cargo in the tractor-trailer was discovered after someone left the truck and asked a Walmart worker for water, AP said.

In his statement, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the community was praying for the recovery of the adults and children who were hospitalized. AP said that at least four of the survivors were between the ages of 10 and 17.

“Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Antonio has already reached out to our mayor and promised to offer whatever assistance is needed. We will do anything possible for these brothers and sisters and their families,” he said.

Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the tragedy was “a clarion call” for the nation to make immigration reform a priority.

“Everyone — the churches, law enforcement, state and national elected officials, civic organizations, charitable groups — has to prioritize the immigration issue and truly work together in new ways which have eluded us in the past for common sense solutions. No more delays. No more victims,” he said.

He recalled that when 19 people died in similar circumstances in a locked trailer in nearby Victoria in 2003, “the nation was stunned, and people of good will vowed to work diligently to ensure that something such as this would never happen again.”

“Unfortunately, law enforcement has reported an upsurge in these types of human smuggling and trafficking operations at the border in recent months,” Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

      Such incidents involve “increasingly desperate individuals seeking safety and a better life for their families placing their well-being and indeed their lives in the hands of reprehensible, callous smugglers and traffickers,” he said.

      “We pray for these victims and all victims of human smuggling and trafficking; that this monstrous form of modern slavery will come to a quick and final end,” the archbishop added. “God cries seeing this reality and many other situations such as this across our country and around the world.”

      In a separate statement, the Austin-based Texas Catholic Conference, which is the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, joined Archbishop Garcia-Siller in mourning the migrants’ deaths and praying for the survivors.

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Medicaid cuts would would be detrimental to West Virginians, bishop says

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Catholic News Service

WHEELING, W.Va. — In the shadow of the national health care debate is West Virginia, a state where a large portion of the population is living in poverty, where Medicaid is the focus and concern.

Catholic Charities West Virginia reports that Medicaid serves more than

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is seen at Wheeling Hospital Feb. 17. (CNS photo/Colleen Rowan, The Catholic Spirit)

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is seen at Wheeling Hospital Feb. 17. (CNS photo/Colleen Rowan, The Catholic Spirit)

546,000 people in the state, a third of the population. Last year alone, 170,000 West Virginians enrolled in the program.

Cuts to Medicaid in any overhaul of the federal health care law would be detrimental to West Virginia, said Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston and officials at Catholic-run Wheeling Hospital.

“It would be a monumental health care crisis in this state if this was to take place,” said Heidi Porter, vice president of quality and regulatory affairs at Wheeling Hospital.

“We are in a state that’s poor, highly co-morbid. People have a lot of health disparities; they have chronic conditions. They are the people who have multiple diseases who … could be restricted in terms of health coverage,” Porter told The Catholic Spirit, diocesan newspaper of Wheeling-Charleston.

Wheeling Hospital is the state’s only Catholic hospital and is operated by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

A key provision of the now-collapsed Senate health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, was to make deep cuts to Medicaid, which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic social service agencies and health care providers decried, saying the cuts would have harmed those most in need.

On July 25, the Senate took a procedural vote to debate health care legislation. Fifty Republicans voted yes and two GOP senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted no, along with the Senate’s 48 Democrats. The tiebreaking vote was necessary from Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate. Late the same same day senators voted 57-43 to reject one proposal before them, a revised version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

Porter discussed the current health care debate and adverse effects cuts to Medicaid or repeal of the Affordable Care Act could have in West Virginia July 18, just hours after U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, announced that she would vote against any bill to just repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan.

Capito was among other GOP senators who said they would not vote on the measure, leaving the Senate without the needed 50 votes to bring the bill forward for a debate.

“As I have said before, I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” Capito said in a statement. “For months, I have expressed reservations about the direction of the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. I have serious concerns about how we continue to provide affordable care to those who have benefited from West Virginia’s decision to expand Medicaid, especially in light of the growing opioid crisis.

“All of the Senate health care discussion drafts have failed to address these concerns adequately,” she added.

“I view Medicaid as a safety net for these folks,” said Kareen Simon, vice president of operations at Wheeling Hospital, who joined Porter in discussing health care with The Catholic Spirit. “Everybody has the right to have access to health care.”

Medicaid in West Virginia, Simon noted, provides coverage of specifics related to overall wellness, coverage of basic needs for individuals and families living in poverty and in need of assistance.

“Prenatal care, pharmaceuticals such as vaccines, being able to have your children vaccinated, dental, vision, mental health services — that is all available,” she said. “It’s wellness, all the way across the continuum from birth to elderly. If you do away with that, you are looking at a population that has no access to any health care.”

Bishop Bransfield emphasized this point in his column in the July 21 issue of The Catholic Spirit, noting that the state’s children and the elderly would suffer greatly from any cuts to Medicaid benefits.

“As many of you know, West Virginia has some of the poorest communities in the United States,” the bishop said in his column. “The largest number of poor in West Virginia are children and without a doubt many senior citizens live below the poverty line. The elimination or reduction of Medicaid, especially the Children’s Health Insurance Program, CHIP, will seriously affect our people.

“The CHIP program is one of the Medicaid programs that should be renewed and whose reach should be extended,” he wrote, “in order to ensure that our young people have access to regular pediatric care and annual physicals, so that all our young people have the chance to see a doctor at least yearly and not only in emergency situations. Likewise, in a state with so many elderly living on their own, it is important that they too have access to affordable health care.”

While saddled with poverty and health care issues, West Virginia also is facing an opioid addiction crisis. According to the West Virginia Health Statistics Center, preliminary data shows that 879 people died of drug overdose in West Virginia last year. A total of 744 of those drug overdose deaths involved one or more opioids.

Access to Medicaid for those suffering and affected by this crisis, Porter and Simon said, has been vital to the state in terms of treatment and recovery.

“It’s bad,” Porter said of the state’s opioid crisis. “It’s a daily occurrence that everyone in every health care organization in West Virginia deals with. It has left zero portion of the state untouched.”

The biggest and most heartbreaking issue facing the state’s health care facilities in the opioid crisis is the treatment of babies born addicted to drugs. The condition is called NAS — neonatal abstinence syndrome, in which newborns suffer from withdrawal from the drugs they were exposed to in the womb.

“Every hospital in the state is seeing that,” Simon said. “Just by looking at a baby that’s born addicted, that’s worthwhile” to have Medicaid. “That baby needs to be treated.”

Although repeal of Obamacare seems unlikely now without the needed votes in the Senate, Porter stressed that repeal without knowing what is going to replace it is “dangerous.”

“Not knowing what is coming down the pike,” she said, “you are playing with people’s lives. It’s dangerous and could be deadly to people.”

Both Porter and Simon believe there are success stories in the expansion of and access to Medicaid in the Mountain State overall, especially with treatment of drug addiction and preventative care.

“If you have 53,000 people last year who sought treatment for substance abuse and other issues, there is success to be found in that program,” Porter said. “People are grateful to have that burden eased.

“Obviously, we are a Catholic health care institution and we will provide care regardless of whether or not someone has insurance, but you see relief in people’s faces to know that they are covered.”

By Colleen Rowan, executive editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

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Texas bishops object to call to end protection of young migrants

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — After a Texas attorney general gave the Trump administration an ultimatum to end a policy protecting young migrants or face a lawsuit in September, the Catholic bishops of Texas expressed disappointment in a letter to the state official and blamed Congress for the uncertain future the migrants are facing.

Immigration advocates rally in New York City Nov. 22, 2016. The U.S. bishops' migration committee chair in a July 18 statement urged President Donald Trump to "ensure permanent protection" for youth under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

Immigration advocates rally in New York City Nov. 22, 2016. The U.S. bishops’ migration committee chair in a July 18 statement urged President Donald Trump to “ensure permanent protection” for youth under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

In a letter made public July 20 and addressed to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Texas bishops say they are “disappointed” by his demand that the administration terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a 2012 policy under then-President Barack Obama.

While not providing legal status, it gives youth who were brought to the U.S. as minors and without documentation a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization in the United States as long as they meet certain criteria.

The bishops also blame “Congress’ failure,” for the uncertain future being faced by young DACA recipients, who, “along with countless other migrants who truly believe in the American dream, are victims of a broken system.”

In late June, officials from nine states, mostly attorneys general and one governor, joined Paxton in urging the Trump administration end DACA, threatening the government with a lawsuit Sept. 5 if the program continues.

But President Donald Trump does not seem clear about what he will do. As a candidate, he said he would terminate the policy. As president, he said the decision is difficult and recently said he’s still weighing what to do about it.

Officials from Idaho, Arkansas, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia joined Texas in demanding an end to the program. The State Attorney of California sent Paxton a letter July 21 and, backed by 19 other attorneys general, opposed the request to end DACA.

On June 20, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, along with others, introduced the 2017 version of what in the past has been called the DREAM Act, seeking relief for DACA recipients that could result in their legal status and perhaps citizenship down the line.

“This is the right thing to do and the compassionate thing to do,” said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez in a July 21 letter.

However, White House officials told the McClatchy news service the day before the bill was introduced that the president would not support the legislation even if Congress passes it.

In Texas, the bishops’ statement says, ending DACA would result in the deportation of 117,000 young people from the United States. Nationally, 750,000 to 800,000 are said to have applied for the status, which asks that applicants not have a criminal record, have served honorably in the armed forces of the United States or be currently in school or have graduated from high school or earned a GED.

“These individuals contribute to the economy, serve honorably in our armed forces, excel in our schools and universities, minister in our churches, and volunteer in our communities. Texans should be proud to claim them as our own,” the Texas’ bishops statement said.

The bishops tell Paxton “to be mindful of migrants’ dignity and our own Texas values.” They also speak of the separation of families that some of the DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers,” experience.

“Under our federal system, migrants’ hopes for a better life are often met by bureaucratic ways of thinking,” the letter says, and remind Paxton that Texans stand “against such thinking because they value both liberty and opportunity.”

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

 

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How Seaford’s Vacation Bible School confirms faith

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For The Dialog

Members of confirmation classes at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish model their faith for young students

 

SEAFORD – Vacation Bible School doubles as confirmation class for elementary through high school students at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.

About 20 high school students helped organize and lead the week-long program under the theme “Passport to Peru,” which helped about 40 elementary school students understand that while people may live in different ways and have different customs, they all are children of God. Read more »

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Bishop Dewane: House’s budget resolution puts the poor in jeopardy

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House budget resolution “will place millions of poor and vulnerable people in real jeopardy” because it reduces deficits “through cuts for human needs” and by trying to slash taxes at the same time, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee.

The U.S. Capitol dome is seen behind the entrance to the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington. (CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters)

The U.S. Capitol dome is seen behind the entrance to the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington. (CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters)

“A nation’s budget is a moral document,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “Congress should choose a better path, one that honors those struggling in our country.”

Bishop Dewane’s July 20 statement was issued in response to the budget resolution that was voted out of the House Budget Committee along party lines July 19.

The nonbinding Republican measure is a 10-year budget blueprint that calls for $621.5 billion in national defense spending, provides for $511 billion in nondefense spending and ties cuts to a major overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

It makes at least $203 billion in cuts over a decade in Medicaid, food stamps, tax credits for the working poor and other programs that help low-income Americans. The bill also would change Medicare into a type of voucher program for future retirees.

“The USCCB is monitoring the budget and appropriations process in Congress very carefully, and is analyzing the proposed House budget resolution in more detail,” Bishop Dewane said. “We note at the outset that the proposal assumes the harmful and unacceptable cuts to Medicaid from the American Health Care Act.”

The House May 4 passed the American Health Care Act to replace the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. The Senate effort to repeal and replace the health care law collapsed late July 17.

In the House budget resolution, “steady increases to military spending … are made possible by cutting critical resources for those in need over time, including potentially from important programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) that provide essential nutrition to millions of people,” Bishop Dewane said.

“This would undo a bipartisan approach on discretionary spending from recent years, that, while imperfect, was a more balanced compromise given competing priorities,” he added.

Catholic Charities USA also rejected the measure’s “dramatic cuts in key social safety net programs.”

Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of the national Catholic Charities network, urged House members “to prioritize and protect programs that support and uplift the poor and vulnerable in our country.”

“While CCUSA supports the responsible use of our nation’s fiscal resources and has worked consistently to improve effectiveness in anti-poverty programs, reforms that seek only to cut our nation’s social safety net will further strain efforts to meet individual needs and risk pushing more Americans into poverty,” Sister Markham said July 20.

She made the comments in a letter to Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee, who is chair of the House Budget Committee, and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, ranking member.

Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, also wrote to Black and Yarmuth expressing her opposition to the budget resolution.

“As an organization guided by the social teachings of the Catholic Church, we firmly believe that the federal budget should be informed by moral principles and offer special protections for the poor and vulnerable,” she wrote July 18, the day the measure was unveiled.

“A budget must be fair and just and cannot be balanced on the backs of those among us who least can afford it,” Sister Keehan said. “We recognize that the proper role of federal spending programs should be to lift up the neediest among us enabling them to active participants in society.

“Unfortunately, the deep cuts in programs and services assumed by this budget proposal will severely reduce or eliminate access to basic necessities such as food, shelter, health care, education and other social supports that help lift families and individuals out of poverty and improve their health outcomes,” she said.

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Opioid addiction, overdoses an epidemic, say public health officials

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — Over the past 18 years, the use of opioid drugs, both legal and illicit, has surged throughout the United States.

Thousands of overdoses, disorders and deaths have accompanied this increase, which public health and law enforcement officials have called an epidemic. Read more »

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Erie bishop hops aboard a Harley adorned with Vatican flag for parade

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Catholic News Service

ERIE, Pa. — American flags flew from the back of many of the more than 1,000 motorcycles participating in Erie’s Roar on the Shore Bike Parade July 13.

Lori Follett, a parishioner at St. John the Baptist Parish in Erie, Pa., gives Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie and the Vatican flag a motorcycle ride during the 11th annual Roar on the Shore Bike Parade July 13. (CNS photo/courtesy Anne-Marie Welsh, Diocese of Erie)

Lori Follett, a parishioner at St. John the Baptist Parish in Erie, Pa., gives Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie and the Vatican flag a motorcycle ride during the 11th annual Roar on the Shore Bike Parade July 13. (CNS photo/courtesy Anne-Marie Welsh, Diocese of Erie)

But the Harley-Davidson carrying Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie was the only one that also featured a Vatican flag.

Bishop Persico agreed to take part in the ride late last winter, when two parishioners extended the invitation.

“All for a good cause,” he said, before hopping on board the Tri Glide piloted by Lori Follett of Holy Rosary Parish in Erie. Some of the proceeds from the 11th annual bike rally, a summertime staple in Erie, will benefit the Mercy Center for Women, an outreach of the Sisters of Mercy that provides safe and supportive transitional housing, education and counseling for homeless women in the region.

Bishop Persico, who had never been on a motorcycle before, said the event was a good way to show off the city and its hospitality.

“It’s a great boost for the community,” he said.

Roar on the Shore, founded by the Manufacturer and Business Association of Erie, has raised $800,000 for charity over the past 10 years. The rally concluded July 16 with the traditional blessing of the bikes by the Christian Motorcycle Association.

— By Anne-Marie Welsh

 

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U.S. bishops urge FCC to retain open internet, net neutrality

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In comments delivered July 17 to the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the FCC to use “the strongest legal authority available” to “retain open internet regulations.”

A man holds his smartphone in San Francisco in this  file photo. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged the Federal Communications Commission to use "the strongest legal authority available" to "retain open internet regulations." (CNS photo/Susanna Bates, EPA)

A man holds his smartphone in San Francisco in this file photo. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged the Federal Communications Commission to use “the strongest legal authority available” to “retain open internet regulations.” (CNS photo/Susanna Bates, EPA)

The current regulations, adopted in 2015 by a Democratic-majority FCC, treat the internet as a utility. A prior FCC effort to regulate the internet as a communication service did not stand up to judicial scrutiny. The regulations are now under review by a Republican-led FCC. The concept of an open internet has long been called “net neutrality,” in which internet service providers neither favor nor discriminate against internet users or websites.

The USCCB is “concerned that the FCC is contemplating eliminating current regulations limiting the manner by which the companies controlling the infrastructure connect people to the internet,” said USCCB assistant general counsel Katherine Grincewich.

“Without the current strong open internet regulations, including prohibitions on paid prioritization, the public has no effective recourse against internet service providers’ interference with accessibility to content,” Grincewich said.

“There will be uncertainty about how and whether those companies can block, speed up or slow down access to internet content, and nonprofit religious entities will be relegated to an internet slow lane,” she added. “Since public interest noncommercial, including religious, programming is a low priority for broadcasters and cable companies, the internet is one of the few mediums available to churches and religious groups to communicate their messages and the values fundamental to the fabric of our communities.”

Grincewich noted, “Without protections to prohibit internet providers from tampering with content delivery on the internet, the fundamental attributes of the internet, in which users have unfettered access to content and capacity to provide content to others, are jeopardized.” Such protections, she added, “have particular importance” for those “committed to religious principles” who depend on the internet to convey to the public information “on matters of faith” and on the services provided to the public by those organizations or individuals.

“The internet is an indispensable medium for Catholics, and others with principled values, to convey views on matters of public concern and religious teachings,” Grincewich said.

“The internet was constructed as a unique medium without the editorial control functions of broadcast television, radio or cable television. The internet is open to any speaker, commercial or noncommercial, whether or not the speech is connected financially to the company priding internet access or whether it is popular or prophetic These characteristics make the internet critical to noncommercial religious speakers.”

Grincewich added, “Just as importantly, the internet is increasingly the preferred method for the disenfranchised and vulnerable, the poor that the church professes a fundamental preference toward, to access services, including educational and vocational opportunities to improve their lives and their children’s lives.”

The USCCB “also supports the rights of parents to protect their children from pornography,” one consequence of an open internet, Grincewich said. “The means of protecting children from such material is available to parents,” she added, “without ceding it to companies providing internet access.”

In the USCCB’s filing, Grincewich noted how Pope Benedict XVI warned against the “distortion that occurs when the media industry becomes self-serving or solely profit-driven, losing the sense of accountability to the common good,” which the pope said in this 2006 World Day of Communication message.

“As a public service, social communication requires a spirit of cooperation and co-responsibility with vigorous accountability of the use of public resources and the performance of roles of public trust,” Pope Benedict said, “including recourse to regulatory standards and other measure or structures designed to affect this goal.”

Grincewich also noted Pope Francis has called the digital world “a public square” and said the internet “can help us be better citizens.”

An online “day of action” July 12 on net neutrality issues resulted in a reported 2 million comments on the FCC proposal being sent online to the FCC.

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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