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U.S. bishops urge Catholics to fast for religious liberty – update

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The first version of this story from Catholic News Service incorrectly reported that the U.S. bishops set March 30 as a day of prayer and fasting for religious freedom. That date was only set by Pennsylvania bishops for their state.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops are urging Catholics and “all people of faith” across the nation to join them in prayer and fasting for religious freedom and conscience protection.

Among current threats to religious liberty, they said, is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that forces employers, including religious ones, to provide coverage of contraception/sterilization in their health plans.

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Slain archbishop’s message resonates with young Catholics

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Catholic News Service

Each spring, the doors of the small church near Candler, close to Asheville in North Carolina, are flung open to let in the burgeoning number of congregants.

Seats fill fast on or around March 24, said Edith Segovia, a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc Church. Increasingly, she sees younger churchgoers arriving to celebrate the life of a man who died before many of them were born.

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Washington Letter: Supreme Court gets the health reform law

March 16th, 2012 Posted in National News, Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

 

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Although there are no specifically Catholic issues under consideration when the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments March 26-28 on various aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Catholics will play some key roles.

With six of the nine current Supreme Court justices being Catholics, it is almost inevitable that a Catholic justice will be a “swing vote” determining the outcome in at least one of the cases. And Catholic groups and individuals have not been shy about filing friend-of-the-court briefs seeking to sway the justices toward their hoped-for outcome.

The lawsuits before the court have nothing to do with the contraceptive mandate set by the Department of Health and Human Services — and the First Amendment religious freedom questions raised by it — which has been the subject of a number of other suits in lower courts.

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Bishops: ‘Moral measure’ of U.S. budget is its help for poor, hungry

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WASHINGTON — Congress should base all federal budget decisions on how they provide for those in need, whether they protect or threaten human life and dignity, and if they promote the common good of “workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times,” said the chairmen of two U.S. bishops’ committees in a letter to Congress.

“In the past year, Congress and the administration have taken significant action to reduce the federal deficit, while attempting to protect programs that serve poor and vulnerable people,” said Bishops Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., and Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa.

The letter was dated March 6 and released March 7.

Bishop Blaire is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Bishop Pates is chairman of their Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“Congress will continue to face difficult choices about how to allocate burdens and sacrifices and balance resources and needs,” the bishops said. “We fear the pressure to cut vital programs that protect the lives and dignity of the poor and vulnerable will increase. As Catholic bishops, we have tried to remind Congress that these choices are economic, political, and moral.”

The bishops said they joined other Christian leaders in calling for a “circle of protection” around the poor and vulnerable, both “at home and abroad,” as members of Congress craft and debate a budget resolution and spending bills for the next fiscal year.

The bishops said access to “affordable, life-affirming health care that respects religious freedom” is an urgent national priority and warned against shifting rising health care costs to vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities and the poor.

They voiced support for programs that help low-income people such as Pell grants, offered to needy college students to defray tuition expenses at the college of their choice, and improved workforce training and development. They also pushed for efforts to restore funding cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, and to make permanent an expansion of low-income tax credits.

Bishops Blaire and Pate said they opposed steps that negatively impact poor families such as increasing the minimum rent that can be charged to families receiving housing assistance and a proposal to eliminate funding for a school voucher program called the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The bishops also made the case for protecting programs that help the poor internationally.

“As pastors, we see every day the human consequences of budget choices. Our Catholic community defends the unborn, feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, educates the young, and cares for the sick, both at home and abroad,” they said. “We help poor families rise above crushing poverty, resettle refugees fleeing conflict and persecution, and reach out to communities devastated by wars, natural disasters and famines,” the bishops wrote.

They noted that the “moral measure of this budget debate” is not about political parties or prevailing powerful interests “but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless or poor are treated.”

“Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources,” they said.

 

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Report: Vatican says 13 Cleveland parishes must be reopened

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Catholic News Service

CLEVELAND — A Vatican congregation has overturned the closing of 13 parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland and said the churches must be restored for worship, a person involved with the cases said.

The ruling reverses some of the closings ordered by Bishop Richard G. Lennon since 2009 under a diocesan-wide reconfiguration plan.

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Catholics urged to bring faith-based views to politics

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Catholic News Service

HICKSVILLE, N.Y. — Catholics have a duty as American citizens to bring faith-inspired convictions to politics, and they can never allow politics to trump principles articulated by the bishops in their role as official teachers, according to Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

Informed political action is a particular charism of the laity, he said in the keynote address March 3 in Hicksville at the annual Public Policy Convention of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

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Cardinal dismayed that White House rejects religious freedom concerns

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WASHINGTON — In a strongly worded letter to his fellow bishops, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York charged that White House officials failed to consider the U.S. bishops’ concerns that the federal mandate governing employer coverage of contraception and sterilization under the health care law violated religious freedom principles.

An invitation from the White House to “work out the wrinkles” regarding the mandate either by rescinding it or at least widening the exemptions on religious grounds failed to reach an agreement and the effort “seems to be stalled,” he said in the letter released late March 2.

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National standards set for U.S. Catholic schools

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A set of national standards and benchmarks for Catholic schools — defining what makes them unique and providing ways to measure their effectiveness — was released March 7.

The publication: “National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools” is the result of a collaborative effort by the Center for Catholic School Effectiveness at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Education, the Roche Center for Catholic Education at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and the National Catholic Educational Association.

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Bishop Lori cites ‘absurd’ effects of HHS contraceptive mandate

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty went before Congress again Feb. 28 to urge rescission of the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate or passage of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.

Bishop William E. Lori’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee focused on some of the “absurd and surreal consequences” of the mandate and the “accommodation” announced Feb. 10 by President Barack Obama, which the bishop called “a legally unenforceable promise to alter the way the mandate would still apply to those who are still not exempt from it.”

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Chicago priest named a bishop for Belize

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON —Bishop-designate Christopher Glancy was just settling in at a Chicago parish staffed by his religious order, the Viatorians, after having spent 12 of the previous 13 years in the Central American country of Belize.

Then came the summons: He was to be named the new auxiliary bishop of the nationwide Diocese of Belize City-Belmopan.

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