IMAGE: CNS photo/Mike Blake, ReutersBy Carol ZimmermannWASHINGTON
(CNS) -- The Affordable Care Act -- on the
examination table since President Donald Trump came into office -- has been poked,
prodded and even pronounced dead while the fight to keep it alive keeps going.
President Trump told Cabinet members Oct. 16: "Obamacare is finished. It's
dead. It's gone. ... There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore," but
that is not how those who want health care reform, including Catholic leaders,
see it, and it's not the general public's view either, according to a recent
Family Foundation poll said seven in 10 Americans think it is more important for
Trump to help the current health care law work than cause it to fail. Sixty-six
percent of Americans want Trump and Congress to work on legislation to bolster
the health insurance marketplaces rather than continuing their efforts to
repeal and replace the ACA.
conducted by the Washington-based group that examines key health policy issues,
was released Oct. 13, the day after Trump announced some changes to
the current health care law. By executive order, he directed federal agencies to
make regulatory changes to the ACA to allow consumers to buy
health insurance through association health plans across state lines and lifting
limits on short-term health care plans. He also announced that he was ending
federal subsidies to health insurance companies that help pay out-of-pocket
health care costs for those with low incomes.The Obama administration had authorized the subsidies, but in 2016, Republicans filed a lawsuit, saying they were illegal because Congress had not authorized
president's plan to end the subsidy payments prompted swift criticism from
Democrats, U.S. health care groups and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.Bishop
Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on
Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the bishops "will closely
monitor the implementation and impacts of this executive order by the relevant
said flexible options for people to obtain health coverage are important
strategies, but he also cautioned that "great care must be taken to avoid
risk of additional harm to those who now receive health care coverage through
exchanges formed under the Affordable Care Act."A possible fix to Trump's cuts that would continue federal subsidies to insurance
companies through 2019 was offered in a bipartisan Senate proposal by
Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, and Patty Murray, D- Washington, which
Trump initially appeared to support but then backed down from a day later. When the Obama administration authorized the subsidies, Republicans filed suit, saying they were illegal because Congress had not authorized the payments.By Oct. 20, there
was no word on when the bill -- which also aims to provide states flexibility
to skirt some requirements of the health care law -- might come to the Senate
floor for a vote. Several senators have said they are waiting to see more
details in the bill's text. Support from the House doesn't seem likely since House
Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has said he opposes it.Sister
Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity and president and CEO of the Catholic
Health Association, a leadership organization of more than 2,000 Catholic hospitals
and health care facilities, has been keeping a close eye on the president's
action on health care and the response by Congress.
out a deal to keep the subsidies for a longer-term plan is something that is
very important and critical to the future, particularly for the most vulnerable
among us," she said.
Keehan, who also is a nurse, told Catholic News Service Oct. 18 that she
encourages the House and Senate to take immediate action to stabilize the
insurance markets and delivery and "allow time for us to have a national
conversation" about improving the health care law without letting those now
covered with health insurance lost it or for "premiums to go out of
far, she has only seen parts of the Senate bill, but she said the Catholic
Health Association is "willing to do what we can to craft a compromise
that will work in the short term until we have a longer-term solution."
Alexander-Murray bill is not the only text that needs a closer read to
understand the future of the country's health care system. The new rules that
will be written by federal agencies, per Trump's executive order, will also need
a close look. These changes could appear within weeks but are unlikely to take
effect before the end of the year.Dr.
Steven White, a pulmonary specialist in Ormond Beach, Florida, who is chairman of
the Catholic Medical Association Health Care Policy Committee, said he
is awaiting to see how new rules and regulations are written but is hopeful
that some changes will be a move in the right direction.
said his association sees less federal control and more patient control as a
good thing and also would like the health law to offer more options, freedom
told CNS Oct. 18 that pouring more money into health care isn't the solution,
but he also echoed Bishop Dewane's concern that changes shouldn't be made on
the backs of those with low incomes. He said if Congress backs legislation that
supports subsidies, they need to balance that with the realization that such a
plan "can't last forever."
has to be done," he said a few times during the interview.
just what will happen still remains a mystery.
finding of the Oct. 13 Kaiser poll showed that despite
Americans' support for a bipartisan approach to health care, their confidence
that Trump and Congress can work together to make this happen remains low.
in 10 Americans said they are either not too confident or not at all confident that
cooperation can happen.
- - -
Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Sister Kathleen Schipani found
out she was usually the very first person to teach deaf children to pray, she
decided there had to be an app to fix that.
Learning to pray usually happens in the family, when a
parent or relative recites the words for grace before meals, asks for blessings
or requests guidance or protection, the Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
told Catholic News Service in Rome.
But when a child is born deaf into a hearing family,
those kids shouldn't have to miss out on learning Catholic prayers or religious
terms as they learn American Sign Language, she said Oct. 20.
Sister Schipani, who is director of the office for
persons with disabilities and the deaf apostolate at the Archdiocese of
Philadelphia, was in Rome as part of a conference sponsored by the Pontifical
Council for Promoting New Evangelization. The gathering Oct. 20-22 was
dedicated to sharing best practices in engaging and catechizing persons living
Lots of apps exist for learning ASL, she said, but there
is nothing dedicated to religious terms, daily devotions or prayers of
blessing, love, thanks and praise. The app meant to fill that gap is called,
"Religious Signs for Families," and was to be available from the
iTunes App Store and Google Play in early November.
"The locus of learning your faith starts in the
family, so this app is really to provide families with the ability" to
foster prayer in the home and bond with each other and with God as they pray in
ASL, she said. It also will help teachers who want to teach elementary school
students how to pray using sign language.
"Deaf people have deep experiences of prayer,"
she said, particularly because it involves praying with "their whole
body" with signing and visualization.
"Deaf people have never heard the language that we
speak so they are not hearing the little voice in their head like we are,"
she said. Instead some people say they pray visually with beautiful imagery or
with seeing hands signing in their head.
While sacred music does not have the same ability to draw
deaf individuals to prayer, sacred or beautiful art does, she said.
"A lot of deaf people have not been catechized because
there was no one to sign to them, and that really is what the sad thing is --
when there is no opportunity for deaf people to know religious language and
have an experience of someone teaching them," she said.
Sister Schipani said the beautiful thing about sign
language is the signs are often "iconic," reflecting what the thing
is and, therefore, they can convey the theology behind the concept.
For example, she said, the sign for "heaven" in
the Jewish faith is moving both hands in a way that suggests a semi-circular
dome -- the heavens -- overhead.
In the Christian faith, she said, the sign conveys the
canopy of heaven, but with the other hand going through and up, "because
we believe that Jesus, our savior, has come and we're saved so we can have the
possibility of entering heaven."
- - -Editor's Note: The
app has captions and voiceover in English and Spanish. More information can be
found at http://deafcatholicphilly.org/religious-sign-app/. - - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
By Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians are holy not because of
their good works but because they recognize their sins before God and receive
his forgiveness, Pope Francis said.
In his homily at Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae Oct. 20,
the pope said that
good deeds are "the answer to the freely given love of God, who justifies us and forgives us
"It is the Lord; he is the one who has forgiven our
original sin and who forgives us every time we go to him," the pope said.
"We cannot forgive our own sins with our works, only he can forgive. We
can respond to this forgiveness with our works."
The day's Gospel reading from St. Luke, in which Christ warns
his disciples about the dangers of hypocrisy, speaks of people trying to appear holy to others, while
remaining "all dirty" within, the pope said.
"These people put makeup on their soul, they live off
makeup, holiness is makeup for them," he said. "Jesus always asks us
to be truthful, but truthful
in our hearts."
Jesus, the pope continued, offers a different path than the
hypocrites, who are nothing more than "soap bubbles" -- here today and gone tomorrow.
Pope Francis said Christ's warning on the danger of
hypocrisy is a call for all men and women to "be consistent in our life,
consistent in what we do and what we live," which brings with it the joy of God's
"Truth always in front of God. Always! And this truth
in front of God is what makes room so that the Lord forgives us," the pope
- - -
Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Mike Nelson, EPABy SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) -- Religious
freedom advocates and pro-life leaders praised California Gov. Jerry Brown for
vetoing a bill called the Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act that targeted
religious employers and their faith-based codes of conduct for employees.
Assembly Bill 569 would have
made it illegal for a California employer to discipline or fire employees for
"their reproductive health decisions, including, but not limited to, the timing
thereof, or the use of any drug, device or medical service."
Alliance Defending Freedom said
the bill would have prohibited churches, religious colleges, religious nonprofit
organizations and pro-life pregnancy care centers "from having faith-based
codes of conduct with regard to abortion and sexual behavior."
The government "should not and
cannot tell" employers that they cannot live out their beliefs within their own
organizations, said Elissa Graves, legal counsel for the alliance, which is a
legal group that advocates for religious freedom and sanctity of life and on marriage
and family issues.
"Gov. Brown was right to veto
this immensely unconstitutional bill, which would have been an unprecedented
overreach on the part of the state of California," she added in a statement about
the governor's late-night action Oct. 15.
"The First Amendment doesn't
allow the state to order churches and other faith-based groups to violate their
most deeply held convictions," Graves said. "They have the freedom to live
according to their faith and to require those who work for them to do the
The California Catholic
Conference, the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops, called the
measure "a massive overreach by NARAL" and an attack on religious liberty. NARAL Pro-Choice America advocates for legal abortion and for expanding access to it.
After A.B. 569 was passed by the
California Legislature as its 2017 session ended Sept. 18, the Catholic
conference urged Catholics to send a message to Brown calling for him to veto
It said the bill "deliberately"
targeted religious employers "in a false effort to stop widespread 'reproductive
discrimination' but supporters cannot cite a single case in California where
such discrimination has actually occurred."
"There are no substantiated
claims of discrimination in the secular workforce against women who are
pregnant or exercise 'reproductive choices' because such actions have been
illegal for decades under the Fair Employment and Housing Act," the conference
It noted the bill's supporters
could only point to one case in the state in the last decade "implicating a
religious employer" and "that matter was settled out of court."
"In a reach unknown in any other
legal system, supporters (of A.B. 569) have expanded those who can allege
discrimination in court to include anyone in the employee's family and holds
supervisors personally and legally responsible for enforcing the policy of
employers," the conference said.
"With no restraint in sight,"
the conference said, the bill did not allow employers to enforce codes of
conduct, "even those negotiated with employees as part of union contracts."- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Jenevieve Robbins, Texas Department of Criminal Justice handout via ReutersBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' recent statement that
the death penalty is incompatible with the Gospel focused less on a
government's role in protecting its people and more on the need to defend the
sacredness and dignity of every human life.
At least from the time of Blessed Paul VI in the 1960s, the
Catholic Church has been increasingly critical of the use of capital punishment,
even while acknowledging centuries of church teaching that a state has a right
to punish offenders, including with the death penalty.
St. John Paul II, in his 1995 encyclical letter, "The
Gospel of Life," wrote of his alarm at "the extraordinary increase
and gravity of threats to the life of individuals and peoples," but said
one sign of hope was the increasing opposition around the world to capital
"There is evidence of a growing public opposition to
the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of 'legitimate
defense' on the part of society. Modern society, in fact, has the means of
effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without
definitively denying them the chance to reform," he wrote.
Two years later, Pope John Paul had the Catechism of the
Catholic Church revised to strengthen its anti-death penalty posture. The text
now says that, "given the means at the state's disposal to effectively
repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without
depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of
absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if
not practically nonexistent.'"
Opponents of the death penalty cheered St. John Paul's move,
and theologians recognized it as a "development" of church teaching.
Death penalty opponents also welcomed Pope Francis' even
stronger position against capital punishment, but his words set off a debate
between those who saw his position as a further development of church teaching
and those who saw it as a "change" that contradicted both the Bible
and the traditional position of the Catholic Church.
Edward Feser, a professor of philosophy at California's
Pasadena City College and author of "By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A
Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment," told Catholic News Service that
St. John Paul's teaching was "a nonbinding prudential judgment,"
which was in line with centuries of church teaching recognizing the right of
states to impose the death penalty.
And, writing in Britain's Catholic Herald Oct. 15, Feser
said that if Pope Francis "is saying that capital punishment is always and intrinsically
immoral, then he would be effectively saying -- whether consciously or
unconsciously -- that previous popes, fathers and doctors of the church, and
even divinely inspired Scripture are in error."
But Jesuit Father Jan Dacok, a professor of moral theology and
theologian at the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court, said the church always
insisted there were limits to the conditions under which a state could
legitimately impose the death penalty. St. John Paul, he said, emphasized those
limits to the point of saying that now that it is easier to keep a murderer in
jail for life, the necessary conditions for legitimacy are "practically
Pope Francis took a further step forward, Father Dacok said.
The pope "did not change church teaching, but places it on a higher level
and points out the path toward its perfection."
"What is accomplished
with the death penalty?" the Slovakian Jesuit asked. "Do you obtain the true repentance of criminals? Do you
offer them the possibility of correcting their ways, of asking for forgiveness?"
"No," he said. "With the execution, the
death, you irreversibly cancel the entire dynamic of hope" for repentance,
conversion and at least some attempt at reparation.
"Obviously, Pope Francis cannot change the laws of
individual countries, because that's the competence of legislators," Father
Dacok said. "But he can continually encourage respect for the sacredness
of every human life, because the death penalty truly is not necessary."
Because security and justice can be served without capital
punishment, he said, the urgent matter today is to demonstrate respect for the
sacredness of every human life, "even the life of public criminals
responsible for the death of others."
Father Robert A. Gahl Jr., a priest of Opus Dei and a professor of ethics at Rome's
Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, said Pope Francis "continues
the recent development of doctrine regarding the centrality of mercy for the
Christian faith and the urgency to promote a culture of life in today's throwaway culture," where abortion and euthanasia are widely accepted.
"Pope Francis wants the church to offer a radical
example of the defense of all human life," Father Gahl said. And "without
condemning all past practices, he vigorously demands the elimination of the
The priest noted the church's historic concern for the
impact of the death penalty not just on the criminal, but also on judges and
In fact, the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which was in effect
until 1983, listed as those generally barred from priestly ordination "a
judge who passed a sentence of death" and "those who take up the task
of (execution) and their immediate and voluntary assistants in the execution of
a capital sentence."
On the question of whether Pope Francis' statement marks a
"development" or a "change," Father Gahl said the pope probably
intended to "shake up theologians and to force us to reconsider
traditional formulations of permanent teaching in light of this new and
authoritative development of mercy and human dignity."
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical
Academy for Life, said Pope Francis was exercising his right and obligation to
teach on faith and morals.
"Obviously, the church does not intervene on the level
of civil legislation," the archbishop told CNS, "but today the pope authoritatively
affirms that from a deeper understanding of the Gospel emerges the
contradiction between the death penalty and the gospel of life."
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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.