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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jun-28-2012

By Catholic News Service


Bishops urge Congress to fix health law flaws after high court decision

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court's June 28 decision upholding the health reform law makes it even more urgent for Congress to act to fix the law's "fundamental flaws" on abortion funding, conscience protection and immigrants' access to health care, the U.S. bishops said. The court found that although the individual mandate in the 2010 health reform law does not pass constitutional muster under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, it can be upheld as an acceptable exercise of Congress' taxing powers. In a 65-page opinion announced by Chief Justice John Roberts, five members of the court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in full but limited the federal government's right to withhold its share of Medicaid funding from states that do not expand the health program for the low-income and disabled as mandated by the law. "The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has not joined in efforts to repeal the law in its entirety, and we do not do so today," said a USCCB news release issued shortly after the decision. "The decision of the Supreme Court neither diminishes the moral imperative to ensure decent health care for all, nor eliminates the need to correct (the law's) fundamental flaws." Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, said she was pleased that the health care law "has been found constitutional and will remain in effect." The Daughter of Charity noted that CHA had submitted friend-of-the-court briefs urging the court to find in favor of the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion. "In the coming weeks and months, we will continue working closely with our members, Congress and the administration to implement the ACA as fairly and effectively as possible," she added. However, CHA has agreed with the bishops in urging the government to expand its definition of religious employers who are exempt from the requirement to provide contraceptives and sterilization free of charge to their employees.

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Colorado wildfires force Mass cancellations, evacuations near parishes

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CNS) -- A massive wildfire that started around the popular hiking spot Waldo Canyon west of Colorado Springs forced the evacuation of neighborhoods around several parishes and the cancellation of Sunday Masses at two parishes in the Colorado Springs Diocese. Holy Rosary Chapel in Cascade and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Manitou Springs canceled Sunday Mass June 24 after authorities determined they could be in the path of the wildfire and forced evacuations of those surrounding communities. The novitiate for the Order of the Holy Cross in Cascade was also evacuated and priests and novices were relocated to Sacred Heart Church in the Old Colorado City neighborhood in west Colorado Springs. Sacred Heart Parish is run by Holy Cross priests. As of June 28, the fire had consumed more than 18,000 acres and leaped over a ridge into the Mountain Shadow and Cedar Heights neighborhoods of Colorado Springs. No casualties have been reported and no churches have been damaged, but 34,500 residents have been forced to evacuate, including 2,200 people living in housing on the south section of the U.S. Air Force Academy campus. More than 300 homes are estimated to have burned down as of early June 28. Neighborhoods around St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Colorado Springs, including Mount St. Francis Nursing Home, were among those evacuated June 26. Father Brad Noonan, a longtime Colorado Springs fire chaplain before being assigned as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Castle Rock, has visited the site several times and has been available for the needs of firefighters and affected residents. He said the pastoral approach to help them is to "just try to be present to them."

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Faith in God always lived 'in the company of others,' says archbishop

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- In solidarity with U.S. Catholics participating in prayers and public witness during the "fortnight for freedom" leading up to Independence Day, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles urged Catholics to rededicate themselves to the nation's founding freedoms. "We are concerned that America is losing its will to promote and defend our most basic freedoms: the freedom of religion and the freedom of conscience," said Archbishop Gomez in his welcoming remarks during mid-morning Mass June 24 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. He explained that the U.S. bishops' "fortnight for freedom" prayer and action activities sought to enlighten leaders and promote among citizens "a real appreciation for what our nation's founders knew: That our human rights come from God, not from government." In his homily, he emphasized that it's important to remember that "this 'fortnight' is not about politics. It's about God and our relationship with God. It's about our freedom to do what our faith in Jesus Christ requires." Reflecting on the day's Gospel about how people rejoiced with St. Elizabeth upon the birth of her son, St. John the Baptist, the archbishop pointed out that the Scripture passage reveals an important truth about our faith and our relationship with God. "We find God, and we live our faith in God --- not alone by ourselves --- but always in the company of others," said Archbishop Gomez. "That's why religious liberty is much more than our personal freedom to pray and worship. Because our faith is social, we are called to live our faith in Jesus with others and for others."

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Illinois Catholics rejoice over 'venerable' decree for Archbishop Sheen

PEORIA, Ill. (CNS) -- The Vatican's June 28 decree that U.S. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen lived a life of heroic virtues and should be considered venerable -- advancing his sainthood cause -- prompted much rejoicing in his home state of Illinois. "This is a great day for the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and the Catholic Church in America," said Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, who added that the "heroic virtues of a son from central Illinois and a priest of Peoria have been recognized by the Catholic Church. Fulton Sheen's zeal, wisdom, and holiness should help us build our faith," he said. Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation in Peoria, said it was "not a coincidence that the church would render its decision on the heroic virtue of Archbishop Sheen on the same day as the Supreme Court issues its decision on the health care plan." He said the timing of the announcement shows how the church in the United States "needs heroes" and that Archbishop Sheen can "be an inspiration and a consolation to our bishops and other church leaders" since he was "a man of courage, and priest of prayer." The decree issued by the Congregation for Saints' Causes and signed by Pope Benedict XVI said Archbishop Sheen should be considered venerable because he heroically lived Christian virtues. In general, the church must then confirm two miracles before sainthood is declared. The first miracle is needed for beatification and the second for canonization.

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Pope approves Archbishop Sheen's heroic virtues, step toward sainthood

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has approved the heroic virtues of U.S. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the Vatican announced June 28, clearing the way for the advancement of his sainthood cause. Among the others honored in decrees announced the same day were first prelate of Opus Dei, the Canadian and Irish-American founders of two orders of religious women, a priest murdered by the Sicilian Mafia, and 154 martyrs killed during the Spanish Civil War. Archbishop Sheen heroically lived Christian virtues and should be considered "venerable," said a decree issued by the Congregation for Saints' Causes and signed by Pope Benedict. Before the archbishop can be beatified, the Vatican must recognize that a miracle has occurred through his intercession. The decree came just more than 13 months after Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., presented Pope Benedict with two thick volumes about the life of Archbishop Sheen, whose home diocese was Peoria. Archbishop Sheen, who was born in Illinois in 1895 and died in New York in 1979, was an Emmy-winning televangelist. His program, "Life is Worth Living," aired in the United States from 1951 to 1957. Last September, a tribunal of inquiry was sworn in to investigate the allegedly miraculous healing of a newborn whose parents had prayed to the archbishop's intercession.

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Archbishop takes 'fortnight for freedom' to Rome

ROME (CNS) -- On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Obama administration's health care law, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore warned an audience in Rome about what he characterized as the law's threat to religious freedom. The archbishop, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom, addressed a group called the Observatory on Religious Liberty, recently established by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the city of Rome. Archbishop Lori, who spoke several hours before the announcement of the court's decision, singled out the health care law's planned "HHS mandate," which would require the private health insurance plans of most Catholic institutions to cover surgical sterilization procedures and artificial birth control, in violation of the church's moral doctrines. "Embedded in the HHS mandate is an extremely narrow definition of religion put there as a litmus test to determine which religious organizations are religious enough -- by the government's definition -- to deserve an exemption from providing services contrary to their teachings," he said. The archbishop described the administration's effort in this case as part of a broader trend. "Unless we stop it now, this narrow, governmental definition of what a church is will likely spread throughout our nation's laws and policies," he said.

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Something you can bank on? Vatican financial body works to revamp image

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In an effort to shed a decades-long image of secrecy and suspicion, the Vatican bank has been investing heavily in building a new image of transparency and legality. But recent scandals, such as the May 24 ouster of the bank's president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, for incompetence, and leaked Vatican documents hinting of financial mismanagement within the walls of the Vatican have only made that mission more urgent. In a rare show of PR savvy, the Vatican bank, known formally as the Institute for the Works of Religion, has been opening its alarm-triggered doors -- giving bishops and ambassadors, and now, journalists, a detailed rundown of how the bank works. "We are trying to open the treasure chest up a bit and show we are working for transparency," said Paolo Cipriani, the bank's director since 2003. In late June, the bank hosted some 60 journalists accredited by the Vatican for a two-hour-plus PowerPoint presentation describing the mission of this unique financial institution and what it has been doing to try to comply with international banking and anti-money-laundering standards. It also included a brief tour of part of the bank, which is decorated with museum cases displaying gold commemorative coins and large accounting ledgers from the early 1900s. The Institute for the Works of Religion was formally established in 1942, but it has its roots in an administrative body that was started by Pope Leo XIII in 1887 to support the work of the Catholic Church.

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Deacons, nuns, laity and even athlete-priests to be Olympic chaplains

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Some people are simply gifted at sport; they excel at any challenge involving a ball, a stick or a physical contest nearly as soon as they turn their hands to it. One such person is Father Geoff Hilton, a priest from Salford Diocese in the north of England, who will be serving as a chaplain to athletes competing in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. It was because of his sporting prowess that the former police officer from Manchester was hand-picked to become one of 16 official Catholic chaplains appointed by the Olympics organizing committee. Over the years, Father Hilton has distinguished himself as a badminton player on a national level -- losing in the men's final in Madrid when he was a seminarian at the English College in Valladolid -- as a soccer and a rugby league player, and later as a rugby league referee, working in two World Cups. Now, at the age of 55, he takes time from his duties as pastor of St. Osmund Church, Bolton, to compete as a professional crown green bowler, a sport usually played only in the north of England. For him, the chance to minister to athletes at the Olympic Village July 27-Aug. 12 was an opportunity too good to pass up. "It won't happen again in my lifetime, the Olympics coming to England, and I'm very much looking forward to it," Father Hilton told Catholic News Service in a June 20 interview at the Red Lion bowling green in Westhoughton, near Manchester.


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