Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cardinal Levada - 'I am not proud of America's newspaper of record'

William Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asks in his former archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic San Francisco, for the New York Times “to reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view of a leader it can and should count on.”

Excerpt:

In our melting pot of peoples, languages and backgrounds, Americans are not noted as examples of “high” culture. But we can take pride as a rule in our passion for fairness. In the Vatican where I currently work, my colleagues – whether fellow cardinals at meetings or officials in my office – come from many different countries, continents and cultures. As I write this response today (March 26, 2010) I have had to admit to them that I am not proud of America’s newspaper of record, the New York Times, as a paragon of fairness.

I say this because today’s Times presents both a lengthy article by Laurie Goodstein, a senior columnist, headlined “Warned About Abuse, Vatican Failed to Defrock Priest,” and an accompanying editorial entitled “The Pope and the Pedophilia Scandal,” in which the editors call the Goodstein article a disturbing report (emphasis in original) as a basis for their own charges against the Pope. Both the article and the editorial are deficient by any reasonable standards of fairness that Americans have every right and expectation to find in their major media reporting.

In her lead paragraph, Goodstein relies on what she describes as “newly unearthed files” to point out what the Vatican (i.e. then Cardinal Ratzinger and his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) did not do – “defrock Fr. Murphy.” Breaking news, apparently. Only after eight paragraphs of purple prose does Goodstein reveal that Fr. Murphy, who criminally abused as many as 200 deaf children while working at a school in the Milwaukee Archdiocese from 1950 to 1974, “not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims.”

But in paragraph 13, commenting on a statement of Fr. Lombardi (the Vatican spokesman) that Church law does not prohibit anyone from reporting cases of abuse to civil authorities, Goodstein writes, “He did not address why that had never happened in this case.” Did she forget, or did her editors not read, what she wrote in paragraph nine about Murphy getting “a pass from the police and prosecutors”? By her own account it seems clear that criminal authorities had been notified, most probably by the victims and their families.

Goodstein’s account bounces back and forth as if there were not some 20 plus years intervening between reports in the 1960 and 70’s to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and local police, and Archbishop Weakland’s appeal for help to the Vatican in 1996. Why? Because the point of the article is not about failures on the part of church and civil authorities to act properly at the time. I, for one, looking back at this report agree that Fr. Murphy deserved to be dismissed from the clerical state for his egregious criminal behavior, which would normally have resulted from a canonical trial.

The point of Goodstein’s article, however, is to attribute the failure to accomplish this dismissal to Pope Benedict, instead of to diocesan decisions at the time. She uses the technique of repeating the many escalating charges and accusations from various sources (not least from her own newspaper), and tries to use these “newly unearthed files” as the basis for accusing the pope of leniency and inaction in this case and presumably in others.

It seems to me, on the other hand, that we owe Pope Benedict a great debt of gratitude for introducing the procedures that have helped the Church to take action in the face of the scandal of priestly sexual abuse of minors. . .

It is a very thorough, informed and personal article – as well as a great scoop for Catholic San Francisco to be the first paper of record to print it. Do read the whole thing, but herewith the fine conclusion:

The Times editorial wonders “how Vatican officials did not draw the lessons of the grueling scandal in the United States, where more than 700 priests were dismissed over a three-year period.” I can assure the Times that the Vatican in reality did not then and does not now ignore those lessons. But the Times editorial goes on to show the usual bias: “But then we read Laurie Goodstein’s disturbing report . . .about how the pope, while he was still a cardinal, was personally warned about a priest … But church leaders chose to protect the church instead of children. The report illuminated the kind of behavior the church was willing to excuse to avoid scandal.” Excuse me, editors. Even the Goodstein article, based on “newly unearthed files,” places the words about protecting the Church from scandal on the lips of Archbishop Weakland, not the pope. It is just this kind of anachronistic conflation that I think warrants my accusation that the Times, in rushing to a guilty verdict, lacks fairness in its coverage of Pope Benedict.

As a full-time member of the Roman Curia, the governing structure that carries out the Holy See’s tasks, I do not have time to deal with the Times’s subsequent almost daily articles by Rachel Donadio and others, much less with Maureen Dowd’s silly parroting of Goodstein’s “disturbing report.” But about a man with and for whom I have the privilege of working, as his “successor” Prefect, a pope whose encyclicals on love and hope and economic virtue have both surprised us and made us think, whose weekly catecheses and Holy Week homilies inspire us, and yes, whose pro-active work to help the Church deal effectively with the sexual abuse of minors continues to enable us today, I ask the Times to reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view of a leader it can and should count on.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

Here's one that didn't make it into our Palm Sunday Gallery last year. (Hippolyte-Jean Flandrin) Click to see the whole thing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bishop Morlino Blasts Catholic Health Association, NETWORK, Pelosi

In the midst of a wide-ranging column today, Madison Bishop Robert C. Morlino turns his attention to who speaks for the Church and reminds readers that “Speaker Pelosi is not called by Jesus Christ to lead the Catholic faithful, any more than the religious Sisters in Network are, any more than the leadership of the Catholic Health Association is.” Excerpt, my emphases:

I cannot pass over the actions of the Catholic Health Association and an organization called Network, a lobby of American religious Sisters, who said, quite publicly, that what the bishops have taught is false. They said that the legislation does provide an adequate framework for a Catholic to follow his or her conscience about abortion. So, we had a trade organization — the Catholic Health Association — which calls itself “Catholic” and we had religious Sisters who call themselves Catholic, saying, “Sorry, bishops, you got it wrong, here is the teaching of the Church.”

The Lord Jesus Christ, unworthy though the bishops are, called the bishops to lead the people in faith; He did not call anybody in the Catholic Health Association and he did not call any of the Sisters in Network. To boot, those Sisters who signed the Network document said that they speak for 59,000 American Sisters — that would be every last Sister in the U.S. Yet, another grouping of Sisters came out publicly expressing their disagreement with Network. Unfortunately, the claim that these Sisters in Network represent all Sisters is actually what is false, not the teaching of the bishops.

And, of course, people like Speaker Pelosi could not do enough to wave the letter from the Catholic Health Association and the letter from Network to provide cover for Democratic legislators who wanted to waffle in protecting innocent human life. Speaker Pelosi is not called by Jesus Christ to lead the Catholic faithful, any more than the religious Sisters in Network are, any more than the leadership of the Catholic Health Association is.

The bishops are called to teach, sanctify, and govern. But, as I said before, with regard to the Holy Father, if people will not recognize authority, then they cannot lay responsibility at the feet of those to whom they are disobedient. The pope and the bishops are only responsible when their authority is accepted. The then-Cardinal Ratzinger himself has said, in our contemporary world, the word “obedience” has disappeared from our vocabulary and the reality of obedience has been anathematized.

In this way, very serious harm is being done to the Church because people in the Church wonder, “Who speaks for Christ? Does the Catholic Health Association speak for Christ? Does Network, an organization of religious Sisters, speak for Christ? Do they teach with the authority of the bishops? Is the bishops’ teaching just another opinion?”

Importance of Apostolic succession

If we go down this road, the teaching authority of the bishops will be further eroded and with it, the authority of Christ’s Church. Bishops are sinners, they’re not perfect; neither were the Apostles perfect at all times, they were sinners, too. In His wisdom, which we can’t understand, Jesus calls the bishops, the successors of the Apostles today, to teach the word of Christ to the people and He calls them in a way that He doesn’t call others, including priests. That’s what we mean when we say that the Church is Apostolic. The bishop is a true Apostle insofar as he teaches with the Holy Father, and the priest is a true Apostle insofar as he teaches with the bishop — that’s how it works.

Do read the whole thing.

Last August, I had a post which was variously called by Obama Catholic press and pressure groups - the vilest, nastiest and most mean-spirited post to appear in the Catholic blogosphere all year. The core assertion of the post was that:

CHA is not a repository of Catholic social teaching with regard to health care or an association of moral theologians or a charity in service of the poor. It is a trade association. There is nothing wrong with a trade association, but too many reporters, including members of the Catholic press, have sought comment from CHA without recognizing they are primarily an organization with a vested financial interest in the outcome of the health care debate.

It is now common parlance for bishops and even L’Osservatore Romano to refer to Catholic Health Association rightly as a trade association – a moniker the association desperately sought to avoid during the health care debate. A trade association would have very little success setting themselves up “to lead the Catholic faithful” away from the clear consensus and teaching of the true apostolic leaders of the Church.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Archdiocese of San Francisco Paper Drops a Bomb - Today's MUST Read

George Wesolek is a friend and former colleague who serves as Director of the Office of Public Policy and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He is no conservative, but rather that type of thoroughgoing pro-life, Catholic social justice advocate that is much talked about but rarely evidenced. In a column today at my former paper, Catholic San Francisco, Wesolek drops a bomb, excerpt:

So now we have some nuns accusing the bishops of lying about abortion. Are you shocked? Don’t be because this has been going on for a long time.

For years, most of the leadership of the LCWR and the Catholic hospitals (most of which are owned by these very same LCWR leaders) have been advancing a view of Catholic social teaching that reflects a vision that they learned in the 60s and 70s – a tired feminism that distorts the role of women and has at its center the freedom of women to “choose” to kill the infants in their womb if they so desire.

This view rightly offers deep concern for justice for the poor and vulnerable, but like so many in this age-group, minimizes or trivializes the unborn. “Network,” the Washington, D.C. lobbying arm of the LCWR does not include pro-life legislation as part of its work. If it does at all, it distorts the term “pro-life” to be so ambiguous and far-reaching that it includes everything. Thus, the sisters can say with a straight face that the current health care legislation is “life-affirming.”

Um, this, I think, is a conversation starter. Of course there are no shortage of people on both sides of the divide who believe and say this type of thing privately and then expediently pretend otherwise in public. Wesolek has done a great service in dropping the facade. Do read the whole thing.

One quibble: Wesolek goes on to say:

Some have said that the sisters are taking this position because they have deep economic interests because of their hospitals. I disagree. Their rationale is ideological. I believe that they truly believe in health care reform…so much so that they are willing to trivialize the abortion issue and throw in their lot with the Obama administration.

I am one of those who has argued that economic interest is at work in the Catholic Health Association’s support of the Senate bill. I agree with what Wesolek said about ideology, but that principled position is not in tension with the economic interests of Catholic hospital executives who dearly want more paying customers. If it was in tension, those executives would have canned Sr. Carol Keehan long ago.

(BTW, Don't forget to follow me on Twitter for lots more updates)

D.C. Could Get Right to Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Today - Contact Your Senator

Senator Robert Bennett (D-UT) is set to offer an amendment today in the Senate restoring the right of Washington D.C. citizens to vote on the issue of same-sex marriage. That right was stolen from them by an un-elected panel last year. The news and action item comes from my friend Bill May at Catholics for the Common Good (Not to be confused with a similarly named SEIU/DNC/Soros front group):

Let Washington DC Vote on Marriage!
Call Your U.S. Senators Right Away

We have just learned that one of the healthcare reconciliation bill amendments being offered by the GOP this afternoon in the Senate would give the citizens of Washington, D.C. the right to restore the definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Please call your U.S. Senators and ask them to support amendment #3568 on the rights of D.C. voters.

The Washington City Council has legalized same-sex “marriage” but when a local citizens group submitted petitions to put the definition of marriage on the ballot, as the citizens of Maine and California have done, the appointed D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruled that under the District’s Human Rights Act, it would be discriminatory to even let citizens vote on such a measure. Stand4MarriageDC, led by Hope Christian Church Senior Pastor, Bishop Harry Jackson, has since been fighting for the rights of the voters through the courts.

The Congress can restore the rights of the voters, guaranteed under the D.C. Charter. It is a bill introduced by Sen. Robert Bennett, R.-Utah for that purpose that will be offered as an amendment this afternoon.
Please call your two U.S. Senators now.

This is an important opportunity to get this measure into the reconciliation bill. It is also an important opportunity to let every Senator tell the nation just where they stand on traditional marriage and the rights of voters. Every time citizens have had a chance to vote on marriage they have strongly confirmed traditional marriage.

For information on how to contact your Senators go to contactingthecongress.org. Ask them to vote "YES" on amendment #3568 to the healthcare reconciliation bill.

Please forward this email to like-minded friends and family members across the country. It is important to act right away. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

For the Common Good,

Bill May
Chairman, Catholics for the Common Good

Irish Spiderboy

Something to cleanse the palate (if only for a moment). My son who's about this kid's age made me play this over and over last night and never stopped laughing.



Note to my valued email subscribers: You'll have to click on the post to see the video. Also, don't forget to follow me on twitter - I'm posting there all the time.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Some Useful Reminders About Perfidious Catholic Health Bill Endorsers, Part 1

1. Kevin Lofton, CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives, the hospital conglomerate that chairs Catholic Health Association is a regular contributor to Rep. Diana Degette, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus.

2. Catholic Health Association's chief public policy advocate, Michael Rodgers, repeatedly gives campaign money to pro-abort extremist Rep. Judy Feder.

3. Catholic Health Association has advocated aborting children with anencephaly.

4. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious has never taken a position on legalized abortion and has never supported prolife efforts. The only abortion reference on their website, which takes positions on numerous issues, is to support a sister who signed a pro-abortion newspaper ad.

5. NETWORK Lobby has never taken a position on legalized abortion and has never supported prolife efforts. After a career of studiously ignoring the slaughter of 40+ million innocents, NETWORK head Sister Simone Campbell claims to be more knowledgeable and committed on the subject than the U.S. Bishops and their pro-life support staff.

Much more to come.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Youngstown Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. Urges Calls to 3 Catholic Congressman

The following statement has been issued by the Bishop Murray of Youngstown. It follows a diocesan statement yesterday saying, “Recent statements by Sr. Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association, the NETWORK organization, and some members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious do not reflect the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes the current Senate Health Care Bill.”

Unfortunately, the perfidy of Sr. Carol, NETWORK and LCWR leadership has already done its work as Congressmen Boccieri and Wilson have already indicated they are switching their votes to yes. Rep. Wilson said today that he is "confident that the language in the Senate bill ensures that there will be no federal funding for abortions."

Here is the statement. The links are added for ease of contacting the Representatives. It’s still worth a try:

Statement of Bishop George V. Murry, S. J. on Health Care Reform Vote

“As longtime advocates of health care reform, the U.S. bishops have made the moral case that any reform must protect the life, consciences, dignity and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. I encourage Catholics in the Diocese of Youngstown to continue contacting their congressional representatives to urge support for the bishops’ position (See usccb.org/healthcare). I regret, however, that the health care bill in its present form fails to meet the minimum moral criteria of protecting life and freedom of conscience of all citizens. I urge our three local Catholic congressmen, Representatives John Boccieri, Tim Ryan and Charlie Wilson to oppose this legislation in its current form due to its expansion of abortion funding. What we need is a just health care reform that protects the life, health, and dignity of all.”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

USCCB Says NETWORK is Far Off the Mark

A short and direct statement just came across from Sister Mary Ann Walsh, USCCB Director of Media Relations, correcting the outrageous claim (repeated by many news outfits) that a letter signed by 55 Women Religious in favor of the Senate Health Care Reform bill represents 59,000 American Sisters. Here it is:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Clarification

Washington—A recent letter from Network, a social justice lobby of sisters, grossly overstated whom they represent in a letter to Congress that was also released to media.

Network’s letter, about health care reform, was signed by a few dozen people, and despite what Network said, they do not come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters.

The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons.  One endorser signed twice.

There are 793 religious communities in the United States.

The math is clear. Network is far off the mark.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh
Director of Media Relations
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Bishop Finn Says CHA Diminishes Catholic Solidarity

On Wednesday, Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn made a major pro-life speech in Minneapolis where he said the Catholic Health Association should “loudly and publically” reverse their “permissive stance” on the “critically flawed” Senate Health Care Reform Bill. The bishop said CHA’s position "is clearly at odds with the U.S. Bishops Conference and every pro-life group in this country,” excerpt:

We must still hold out insistently for the abortion exclusion. It is wrong to compromise in this regard. In their recent statements, the Catholic Health Association is all too ready to trust that we can somehow “fix” abortion after a bill is passed. Their recommendation to allow the passage of the critically flawed Senate bill is clearly at odds with the U.S. Bishops Conference and every pro-life group in this country. Their permissive stance diminishes the potential that Catholic solidarity might have in requiring the abortion prohibition and other essential elements in a morally sound proposal. If the Catholic Health Association claims to represent Catholic Hospitals they should keep in mind that, as a bishop, so do I represent the Catholic Hospitals within my diocese. Even now they should loudly and publicly reverse their stance and stand with the Catholic Bishops – and the Bishops Committees on Pro-Life Activities, on Justice, Peace and Human Development, and on Migration - in opposing this bill, at least until explicit protections and provisions are included.

It is incredible, that the position of the Catholic Health Association is now being used in television ads by Catholics United to lobby and undercut the convictions of key pro-life Democrats. Several bishops have now publically refuted CHA’s stand and the Diocese of Youngstown, which includes a number of key, targeted Democratic votes has had to issue a clarification that:

Recent statements by Sr. Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association and some members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious do not reflect the position of the U.S. Bishops or the Catholic Church.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes the current Senate Health Care Bill.

The actions of Sr. Carol Keehan, NETWORK and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious along with Catholics United have every appearance of being a coordinated effort to undercut the U.S. Bishops and the convictions of pro-life Democrats. They are even being used in a renewed effort to change the vote of Rep. Joseph Cao.

In striking contrast to this perfidy, OSV reports today on the reaction the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, representing significantly younger, active and faithful religious women:

Recent statements from groups like Network, the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) directly oppose the Catholic Church’s position on critical issues of health care reform.

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the second conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious in the United States, believes the Bishops’ position is the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church.

Note: Bishop Finn’s talk was actually quite wide ranging and inspiring, but also too long for a blog post. You can read the whole thing in the ZOHO viewer below:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Archbishop Naumann Urges Calls to Congress AND Sister Carol Keehan

Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann is urging his flock to contact key members of Congress this week asking them to vote ‘no’ on the pro-abortion Senate Health Care Reform bill. In his weekly column, he also asks Catholics to “contact Sister Carol Keehan and the Catholic Health Association expressing to them your disappointment in their willingness to accept government funded abortion as part of health care reform.”

I’ve written about the actual purpose and interests of the Catholic Health Association before and will follow-up later this week. For now, Archbishop Naumann’s column which appears in this week’s edition of The Leaven and The Catholic Key:

Catholics urged to contact ‘swing votes’ on health care

By Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann

I was deeply troubled to learn that Sister Carol Keehan, the Chief Executive for the Catholic Health Association has urged members of the House of Representatives to vote for the Senate Health Care Reform Bill. This action by the Catholic Health Association could not come at a more critical time.

As I write this article, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is promising a vote soon on Health Care Reform, even while members of the House leadership admit they do not yet have enough votes for passage. One of the most critical groups, standing in the way of passage by the House, is Pro-Life Democrats.

The Catholic Health Association’s position, in effect, provides cover for any member of the House who chooses to buckle under the pressure of the President and the Democratic leadership to accept government funding of abortion. They can now defend themselves by pointing out that Catholic Health Care leaders recommended they vote for the bill.

The Catholic Health Association’s leadership took this action knowing that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to urge members of the House of Representatives to vote against the Senate Bill, unless a way is found to amend the bill to prohibit federal funding of abortion and provide conscience protection for health care professionals as well as health care institutions. The National Right to Life Committee, as well as every other creditable pro-life organization, recognizes that the Senate Bill allows for unprecedented government funding for abortion.

Sister Carol Keehan claims: “On the moral issue of abortion, there is no disagreement. On the technical issue of whether this bill prevents federal funding of abortions, we differ from Right to Life.” I find this statement by Sister Keehan either incredibly na├»ve or disingenuous. Either the bill permits previously prohibited government funding of abortion or not. This is not a technicality.

The United States Catholic Conference, in its analysis of the Senate Bill, identifies these specific problems with the Bill: 1) The Bill appropriates $7 billion for services at Community Health Centers that can be used directly for elective abortions. 2) The Bill uses federal funds to subsidize health plans that cover abortions. By subsidizing plans that cover abortions, the federal government will expand abortion coverage and make abortions more accessible. 3) The Bill uses the power of the federal government to force Americans to pay for other people’s abortions even if they are morally opposed to abortion.

If the Senate had wanted to prohibit federal funding for abortion all they had to do was accept the language that had been adopted by the House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority. The Senate rejected this language.

Congressman Stupak, who authored the House language, has invited President Obama and/or the Democratic leadership to use the Hyde Amendment language or similar language in several other already enacted bills that clearly prohibits federal funding of abortion. To date, they have refused to accept language that has been used for decades to prevent federal funding of abortion. The President and the Democratic leadership reject this tried and true language protecting taxpayers from having to fund abortion all the while claiming that they do not want to change current policy. If this is really the case, why not use the language that has proven effective?

Of course abortion is not the only problem with the Senate Bill. For instance, the Bill fails to provide adequate conscience protection for health care professionals as well as institutions. One would think that the Catholic Health Association would be extremely concerned about conscience protection. However, if the Catholic Health Association is willing to compromise on government funding for abortion, then who needs conscience protection.

I do not doubt the laudable intentions of Sr. Carol Keehan and the Catholic Health Association. No doubt, they want to find a way to extend health care coverage to those who are not being served or not being served well by the current system. Providers of health care see gut-wrenching examples of those who the current health care system is failing. However, it is not permissible to try to improve the quality of life for some by cooperating in the killing of the most innocent and vulnerable members of our human family

To believe that President Obama and/or the Senate and House leadership will correct these abortion issues at a later date is foolish. They are the ones responsible for making members of Congress accept government funding of abortion as an integral part of so-called health care reform. President Obama has gone back on many of his campaign promises, but has been scrupulously faithful in his promises to Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry to advance their agenda.

I urge you to contact your Representative to urge him/her to vote against the Senate Bill, unless someone finds a miraculous way to fix all of its problems. Moreover, although there are none in Kansas or Missouri, I encourage you to contact the members of Congress who have been identified as the critical swing votes on Health Care Reform. These House Members hold the fate of the entire nation in their hands. They need to hear from Americans throughout the country. Finally, I encourage you to contact Sister Carol Keehan and the Catholic Health Association expressing to them your disappointment in their willingness to accept government funded abortion as part of health care reform.

Please visit The Leaven for messaging and contact information for key members of Congress and Sr. Carol Keehan.

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and The Catholic Key is the official newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph in Missouri.

Friday, March 12, 2010

USCCB Issues New Bulletin Alert on Health Care Reform - Fix or Oppose

This afternoon, the USCCB contacted dioceses across the country with a new bulletin insert. As church bulletin’s are usually prepared on Wednesdays, the Conference realizes that most parishes will not be able to utilize the insert for this weekend. They have asked, however, that dioceses use every means of dissemination and social networking available to get this important action alert out, as action in the House is expected in days. You can do the same.

In the insert, the Bishops again urge Catholics to contact their House and Senate members urging them to oppose the Senate Health Care Bill unless changes regarding abortion funding, conscience and immigrants are made. Here it is in pdf and inline below:

USCCB NATIONWIDE BULLETIN INSERT/ACTION ALERT
Updated 3-11-2010
Stop Abortion Funding in Health Care Reform!
Protect Conscience
Ensure Affordable Health Coverage
Allow Immigrants to Purchase Private Health Insurance

As long-time advocates of health care reform, the U.S. Catholic bishops continue to make the moral case that genuine health care reform must protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. Health care reform should provide access to affordable and quality health care for all, and not advance a pro-abortion agenda in our country. Genuine health care reform is being blocked by those who insist on reversing widely supported policies against federal funding of abortion and plans which include abortion, not by those working simply to preserve these longstanding protections.

• On November 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed major health care reform that reaffirms the essential, longstanding and widely supported policy against using federal funds for elective abortions and includes positive measures on affordability and immigrants.

• On December 24, the U.S. Senate rejected this policy and passed health care reform that requires federal funds to help subsidize and promote health plans that cover elective abortions. All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions through a separate payment solely to pay for abortion. And the affordability credits for very low income families purchasing private plans in a Health Insurance Exchange are inadequate and would leave families financially vulnerable.

• Outside the abortion context, neither bill has adequate conscience protection for health care providers, plans or employers.

• Congressional leaders are now trying to figure out how the rules of the House and Senate could allow the final passage of a modified bill that would satisfy disagreements between House and Senate versions.

ACTION:
Contact your Representative and Senators today by e-mail, phone or FAX.

• To send a pre-written, instant e-mail to Congress go to www.usccb.org/action.

• Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices.
Contact info can be found on Members’ web sites at www.house.gov & www.senate.gov.

MESSAGE – HOUSE:

“I am pleased that the House health care bill maintains the longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion. On the other hand, the provisions on abortion funding in the current un-amended Senate health care bill are seriously deficient and unacceptable. I urge you to work to uphold essential provisions against abortion funding, to include full conscience protection and to ensure that health care is accessible and affordable for all. I urge you to oppose any bill unless and until these criteria are met.”

MESSAGE – SENATE:
“I am deeply disappointed that the current un-amended Senate health care bill fails to maintain the longstanding policy against federal funding of abortion and does not include adequate protection for conscience. I urge you to support essential provisions against abortion funding, similar to those in the House bill. Include full conscience protection and ensure that health care is accessible and affordable for all. I urge you to oppose any bill unless and until these criteria are met.”

WHEN:
Votes in the House and Senate are expected at any time. Act today! Thank You!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bishop Finn Marks Six Years in Kansas City: Everything is a Grace

From this week’s edition of The Catholic Key:

Six Years and Growing: Everything is a Grace

By Most Rev. Robert W. Finn

I am writing this in the early morning hours of Tuesday, well aware of my press deadline. It is March 9 and I can’t help but recall that six years ago I was cooling it in the Downtown Marriott waiting for a noon press conference – and to meet the community of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

I don’t think I realized yet that I was the “easterner from St. Louis,” or some “extreme traditionalist who loves Latin.” (NCR).

Rather I was more likely thinking how a priest who had served half his priesthood with high school kids in semi-rural assignments, and who had never worked in a chancery office, had gotten here. More than that – I didn’t know how I would fulfill this work that God was placing on my shoulders.

Since then, and shortly into my term I would begin to meet the people who would make my ministry possible. And I met a few who, I must admit, would hesitate to accept me – and still do today. These are challenges we all face! Let’s never give up on each other. Six years later I can say, “Everything is a Grace.”

When I celebrated those first ten Masses around the Diocese, I met so many of you, and I began to discover first hand the grace and prayers that had already been supporting me for the first months since the March 1st phone call and the March 9th formal appointment. Bishop Boland was and continues to be a good “Father” to me and I am grateful that Providence put us together.

From the start, and I said this early on in 2004, I felt strength and relief that I had been named in Joseph’s month (March) and consecrated in Mary’s month (May 3). Again and again I place myself – even more, I place the Diocese – in their hands, and under their protection.

Please pray for me as I approach five years as Ordinary of the Diocese. God willing, I have about 18 years left before my 75th birthday and I will have to write my letter of retirement. This is time to get to know (and love) each other more. I am still hoping for the big donation designated to build the bishops’ crypt under the Cathedral at 12th and Broadway. My lasting home (and yours!) is heaven, until then I am thankful every day to be here.

Here are two important June dates to save:

Sunday, June 6, is Corpus Christi. Particulars are still being finalized, but we will have our annual Eucharistic Procession in the early afternoon. Join us.

Wednesday, June 16th is the Feast of St. John Francis Regis, secondary patron of the Diocese. We will celebrate the Feast formally this year at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 7:00 p.m. Did you know that the first log church on the site of the Cathedral was named for this French Jesuit (Regis, d. 1640) who wanted to come to America to spread the Gospel? Everyone is welcome at this Mass.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

USCCB Clarifies Politico Comments - Still Opposes Senate Bill

An article appearing in Politico last week has led to some speculation and confusion on blogs and news sites about the position of the U.S. Bishops on the acceptability of the Senate Health Care Reform Bill. Because of that speculation, we asked the Bishops’ Conference for clarification or comment. The Conference provided us the following statement:

Recently a reporter asked the staff of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops whether, if the House of Representatives sent a health care reform bill to the Senate that includes acceptable pro-life language like the Stupak amendment, the Conference would defend the pro-life language against efforts by members of either political party to strike it from the bill. The staff answered yes. Some took that answer out of context, and misinterpreted it as a commitment by the bishops to endorse an overall health care bill as long as it includes pro-life language. No such position has been taken. The Conference has said the Senate-passed health care bill fails our moral criteria and must be changed; if changes do occur the bishops would study the new bill, then develop a position based on our moral criteria.

The Conference’s Pro-life Secretariat has also produced a one-page synopsis on “Abortion Funding in the Senate Health Care Reform Bill” which has been distributed to State Catholic Conferences and Diocesan Pro-Life directors. As you can see, the abortion funding problems in the Senate Bill extend well beyond the premium division scheme:

Abortion Funding in the Senate Health Care Reform Bill

Congress and the public agree that the federal government should not fund elective abortions. For over three decades this policy has been reflected in the Hyde amendment to the Labor/HHS appropriations bill and many similar laws. While the House-approved health care reform bill (H.R. 3962) follows this longstanding policy, in key respects the Senate bill (H.R. 3590) does not:

Federal funds in the Senate bill can be used for elective abortions. For example, the bill authorizes and appropriates $7 billion over five years for services at Community Health Centers. (This would rise to $11 billion under President Obama's new proposal.) These funds are not covered by the Hyde amendment (as they are not appropriated through the Labor/HHS appropriations bill governed by the Hyde amendment), and not covered by the bill's own abortion limitation in Sec. 1303 (as that provision relates only to tax credits or cost-sharing reductions for qualified health plans, and does not govern all funds in the bill). So the funds can be used directly for elective abortions.

The Senate bill uses federal funds to subsidize health plans that cover abortions. Sec. 1303 limits only the direct use of a federal tax credit specifically to fund abortion coverage; it tries to segregate funds within health plans, to keep federal funds distinct from funds directly used for abortions. But the credits are still used to pay overall premiums for health plans covering elective abortions. This violates the policy of current federal laws on abortion funding, including the Hyde amendment, which forbid use of federal funds for any part of a health benefits package that covers elective abortions. By subsidizing plans that cover abortion, the federal government will expand abortion coverage and make abortions more accessible.

The Senate bill uses federal power to force Americans to pay for other people's abortions even if they are morally opposed. The bill mandates that insurance companies deciding to cover elective abortions in a health plan "shall... collect from each enrollee in the plan (without regard to the enrollee's age, sex, or family status) a separate payment" for such abortions. While the bill states that one plan in each exchange will not cover elective abortions, every other plan may cover them --and everyone purchasing such a plan, because it best meets his or her family's needs, will be required by federal law to fund abortions. No accommodation is permitted for people morally opposed to abortion. This creates a more overt threat to conscience than insurers engage in now, because in many plans receiving federal subsidies everyone will be forced to make separate payments solely and specifically for other people's abortions. Saying that this payment is not a "tax dollar" is no help if it is required by the government.

The House bill simply follows current law. The Stupak/Pitts provision in the House-passed health bill (also offered but rejected in the Senate as the Nelson/Hatch/Casey amendment) solves these problems by following longstanding current laws such as the Hyde amendment: No funds authorized or appropriated in the entire bill may be used for elective abortions or health plans that cover them. People are not forced to pay for other people's abortions, and those who want abortion coverage may buy it separately without using federal funds. This policy would maintain longstanding federal precedent, ensuring that this is a health bill and not an abortion bill.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How Bad Dog Breath Built Two Villages in Guyana

Joe Roetheli, the Missouri Catholic man who invented Greenies® as a fix for his dog’s bad breath, has channeled his commercial success to build two villages for the poor in Guyana – and a whole lot more. From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

GuyanaPicture_75 Sharing rich blessings from God with the poor and underserved

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter

KANSAS CITY — Joe and Judy Roetheli know what poverty is. Both grew up in humble surroundings: Joe on small farm near Hermann, Mo., and Judy in a small, sand-road town in Florida, where her father worked as a butcher/salesman and her mother ran an in-home daycare plus raised their own five children. Joe, who with his sister, was the first in his family to go past the eighth grade, went on to earn a doctorate in agricultural economics and Judy a degree in education.

Joe worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 18 years while Judy was both homemaker and teacher. They raised two boys, Steffan and Michael. And dogs. Especially Ivan, a dog with acute halitosis, bad breath.

To try and help Ivan combat his bad breath, which made close contact unpleasant for his humans, the Roethelis experimented with different recipes for dog treats that would get rid of the halitosis and taste good, and came up with Greenies®. The family became entrepreneurs in the pet treat business, and Greenies® sold in more than 60 countries. In 2006, Mars, Inc., a worldwide manufacturer of candy, pet food and other food products, and the 6th largest privately-held company in the United States, acquired

Greenies®. The proceeds from the sale of the pet treat funded the Roetheli L’il Red Foundation, which had been established in 2003. Judy serves as president of the 501 (c) (3) and Joe is Chief Executive Officer. The name L’il Red is a redundancy, Joe said. His last name, Roetheli, means Little Red.

About the same time, visiting priests at their parish, Holy Family, introduced the Roethelis to Food for the Poor. Joe and Judy and their sons became interested in the international relief organization which feeds 2 million poor people every day. Eventually, the L’il Red Foundation linked up with Food for the Poor, planning to build villages for the poor in Jamaica. Food for the Poor suggested two other countries whose impoverished residents needed better housing, Nicaragua and Haiti, but because of their governments, the Roethelis elected to build in Jamaica. Eighteen months of bureaucratic hassles and roadblocks to the project followed, and they finally gave up and chose Guyana.

GuyanaPicture83Guyana is on the northern coast of South America, bordered by Venezuela, Brazil, Suriname and the Atlantic Ocean. It was originally settled by the Dutch, and then occupied by the British. It obtained its independence from Great Britain in 1966. English is the official language of Guyana, the only English speaking country in South America.

The country is about the size of Kansas, with a population of about 750,000 compared to 2.8 million in the Midwestern state. The average per capita income in Guyana is about $1,200, while in Kansas the average income is more than $28,000. Yes, the Roethelis were no strangers to the challenges of being poor, but not like in Guyana.

According to Joe Roetheli, there are about as many people of Guyanese descent living in the U.S. as there are in Guyana. Most of the Guyanese are descendents of slaves, about 50 percent East Indian, 36 percent African and 7 percent AmerIndian. The remaining 7 percent are white, or of mixed race. About 8.1 percent of the population is Catholic.

Rivers flow through much of the country, the third smallest in South America, and water covers about 11 percent of the land. One of the major rivers, the Escondido, is about 17 miles across and 90 feet deep in places. Only 2.23 percent of the land is arable, and 75 percent of that is owned by the Guyanese government, which divided the country into regions. Hardwood jungle takes up the majority of the land. The country is rich in natural resources — diamonds, jasper, hardwood, bauxite aluminum ore and shrimp — again mostly under government control.

Many of the poorer residents of Guyana are gatherers — fruit and fish — and, Roetheli said, there is no safety net. “You either find food or you die,” he explained.

“The first village in Guyana was a direct God-driven project,” Joe said. They were able to get land for the village donated in Region 2, and with willing help from volunteers from Food for the Poor, the L’il Red Foundation and native Guyanese, the project was started on Oct. 4, 2008. Spurred on with the help of Ali Baskh, the chairman of Region 2, it was completed five months later, in March 2009. The village, named L’il Red Village, is home to about 600 people and consists of 100 houses, a school, two stores, a library, computer center and gardening area. A community center doubles as a worship center. Recently a 200-ft deep well, named Isaac after a Roetheli grandson, was dug to ensure safe drinking water and a water tower for its storage was erected. While there is no electricity yet, each house has its own sanitation block and shower.

Food for the Poor now manages in-country services for the L’il Red Foundation.

Later that year, the Guyanese government again donated land for a second village to be built with labor and donated materials from L’il Red Foundation and Food for the Poor. Region 2 chairman Ali Baskh showed the land to representatives from Food for the Poor on Oct. 4, the same date the L’il Red Village was started. The proposed village — to be named New Haven — was provided 40 acres of dense jungle reachable only by a 35-minute speed boat trip or 4 ½ hours by ferry. How were they to get the land cleared and the materials to the site in time to even start the project by the onset of the second rainy season of the year, in November?

“No problem,” said the soon-to-be residents. With axes and machetes, the people converged on the jungle and began clearing the site. Within a short time, with the aid of a borrowed chainsaw, they had cleared the 40 acres.

GuyanaPicture_65A second major problem soon reared its ugly head. The New Haven site is accessible only by small boats, which were not big or strong enough to transport all the building materials. Then an old man told them of a seldom used old 32-mile long Indian trail that stopped a few miles short of the site but would enable the volunteers and builders to get the materials to the New Haven acreage.

Again God drove the project, Joe Roetheli said. In just seven weeks, New Haven Village was built and families moved into its 70 homes. The village also has a store. Like L’il Red Village, the new village’s name has personal meaning for Joe and Judy: a granddaughter is named Haevyn, and the town of New Haven, Mo., is about 15 miles from Hermann, where Joe grew up. The village is also a new haven for the people who live there, he said. Joe and his son Steffan, along with a friend from Holy Family Parish, Bob Meyers, traveled to Guyana in January to celebrate the ribbon cutting ceremony with Leon Davis, executive director of Food for the Poor in Guyana, Ali Baskh, the region’s chairman, and, of course, the people.

Both villages are on the eastern side of Guyana, Roetheli said, and paved roads are few and far between. In fact, he said, outside of Georgetown, its capital city, Guyana boasts only 550 miles of paved road. During the rainy seasons, the dirt roads and footpaths become nearly impassable. Water can rise rapidly due to flash floods; the Dutch settled Guyana and, Joe said, “built dykes like crazy to hold back the water.” Outside of Georgetown, however, including in L’il Red and New Haven villages, homes and other buildings are built on stilts. In New Haven, the creek that flows to it is tidal influenced. At low tide no boats can navigate it, at high tide, especially during the rainy seasons, the creek can overflow.

“We are working to get microenterprises in the two villages,” Joe said. “Their primary diet is chicken, rice and beans. So we thought maybe a small chicken farm and processing plant. Some of the women sew a lot, so maybe a dressmaking firm with a couple of sewing machines, and maybe a portable saw mill so they could make their own lumber.

“We need markets for the products to give the people a source of income.” Joe hopes to return to Guyana in the not too distant future with markets for microenterprise products and get them started.

Back home, the Roethelis are involved in a number of foundation-focused projects.

Judy works closely with the pet therapy component of the foundation, and Pets for Life, helping to bring pets to the elderly in nursing homes and to the hospitalized. Other areas the foundation focuses on include housing and education for the poor overseas, especially Guyana; helping budding entrepreneurs through the University of Missouri at both the Columbia and Kansas City campuses, Park University, Benedictine College and St. Mary’s University. They have translated from French to English two books written by Swiss cousins Serge and Nicole Roetheli, and are working on the productions of several inspirational documentaries.

They also enjoy spending time with their grandchildren.

Joe said that the venture into Guyana to build the L’il Red and New Haven villages was a giving back — serving others, especially the needy and the elderly through God’s rich blessings. God has been driving our projects, he said.

Photos courtesy of Joe Roethli.