Archive of March 17, 2010

Hispanics increasing Catholic numbers in US, but assimilation has downside

Hartford, Conn., Mar 17, 2010 (CNA) - A new study of Hispanics shows they comprise an increasingly large percentage of the Catholic Church in the United States. While immigrant influx has helped keep the American Catholic population stable, the more immigrants assimilate into American society the less likely they are to identify as Catholic.

Hispanics also mirror a larger national trend towards non-identification with religion.

The results come from the American Religious Identification Survey 2008 (ARIS) and were reported in a recent press release from Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut. The report was titled “U.S. Latino Religious Identification 1990-2008: Growth, Diversity & Transformation.”

“Over the past 18 years, there are probably few phenomena that have changed America and American religion more than the growth of the Latino population,” commented Juhem Navarro-Rivera, a research fellow at Trinity’s Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC), who conducted the ARIS survey.

Over the 18-year period considered by the study, the addition of nine million Latino Catholics accounted for most of the 11 million additions to the U.S. Catholic population. Latinos now comprise 32 percent of all U.S. Catholics in 2008, compared to 20 percent in 1990.

However, Catholic identification has slipped among the 31 million Latino adults, from 66 percent in 1990 to 60 percent in 2008.

There has also been a significant jump in the number of Latinos who do not adhere to a religion. In 1990 they made up 900,000 people, six percent of the population. They now number four million, 12 percent in 2008, and are the fastest growing segment, according to the ARIS survey.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and some Protestant sects, such as Adventists and non-denominational Christians have tripled their number of adherents in recent years, though the number of Pentecostal adherents only kept pace with Latino population growth.

The longer a Latino has lived in the United States, the less likely he or she is to be Catholic. Those most proficient in English are less likely to identify themselves as Catholic but more likely to self-identify as affiliated with conservative Christian traditions or no religion.

Of those with no religion, 61 percent are male. Among those who are Pentecostal, 58 percent are female.

Marital status also shows distinct patterns, ARIS says. Among unmarried persons cohabitating outside of marriage, 15 percent are without religion, 11 percent are Catholics, and seven percent are non-Catholic Christians. Latinos who say they are separated are overwhelmingly Catholic women. Researchers suggest this means that Latinas are more loyal to Catholic teaching against divorce and remarriage than Latino men.

There are fewer than 400,000 married Latinas who have no religion, while there are over 1.1 million married Latinos without religion. According to ARIS, this suggests that many couples and homes are not “religiously homogeneous.”

The larger proportions of those without religion and those in Protestant sects are under age 30. Those with no religion are more likely to have a college degree, while those in Protestant sects are the least college educated. Mainline Protestant Latinos have the highest household incomes, sectarian Protestants the lowest, and non-denominational Hispanics are the most suburbanized.

Regionally, non-religious Latinos are now 28 percent of all non-religious Texans, up from 15 percent in 1990.

In California, they are 24 percent of all non-religious Californians, up from 10 percent in 1990. They are now 56 percent of Catholics in the state, up five points from 1990.

Latino Catholics and those without religion are most likely to prefer the Democratic Party, while the non-Catholic Christians prefer the Republican Party.

“Whereas Latino immigrants are contributing significantly to the stability of American Catholicism, the younger generation and the U.S.-born population are tending to polarize between those moving away from religion and those moving towards conservative Christian traditions,” summarized Trinity professor Barry A. Kosmin.

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House Budget Committee shoots down inclusion of Stupak Amendment in reconciliation

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a 19-17 vote on Monday night, the House Budget Committee shot down the inclusion of the Stupak-Pitts amendment in the health care reconciliation bill. The amendment, which was drafted by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) last November, would prevent the use of federal funds for abortion and is likely to be addressed by the full House later this week.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) charged on Monday night that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who was not present at the debate, and others who take issue with the Senate bill have “willfully continued to repeat falsehoods about” the Senate legislation's provision of federally funded abortion, according to

“Holding up this bill to play politics on the abortion issue is emphatically not a pro-life stance,” said Rep. DeLauro, who claims the Senate bill does not fund abortions.

The health care reconciliation bill is intended to amend the full health care bill which was passed in the Senate last December. Monday's Budget Committee vote rejecting the Stupak Amendment, acts as a non-binding recommendation to the full House, which is expected to approve a final version of the reconciliation bill in the next several days.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who introduced the Stupak amendment to the Monday night Budget Committee debate, argued against the Senate health care bill and said that it “represents the largest threat to innocent human life since Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court.”

Addressing the resistance to the Stupak Amendment, Rep. Jordan stated that the amendment “simply says that no federal dollars can go to pay for abortion or subsidize a plan that covers abortion. This continues the current policy under the Hyde Amendment, and makes sure that it is permanently applied to any health care reform law.”

“I will say it one more time, since for some reason too many of our colleagues have not gotten the message, or like Congressman Boehner, have willfully continued to repeat falsehoods about it,”  Rep.DeLauro charged on Monday. “Other than the situations excepted by the Hyde language as has been the case for years now, no federal funds are used for abortion, or can be used for abortion in this health-care package,” she added.

In media coverage of the health care debate, some have speculated as to why there is a resistance on the part of some Democrats to adding the Stupak amendment if the Senate and reconciliation bill truly do not provide for federally funded abortions.

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Accused Munich priest resigns in sex abuse case wrongly linked to Pope

Munich, Germany, Mar 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Tourism chaplain for the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising has been immediately suspended from ministry after more allegations that he sexual abused minors. While some news reports have tried to link Pope Benedict XVI to the charges, a subordinate in the archdiocese has claimed responsibility for failures in responding to the case.

A statement from the archdiocese said that it had been presented with evidence the clergyman committed sexual abuse since an episode in 1986.

The accused, known as Priest H., had held youth services and took young people camping despite a ban on his contact with children, says.

Archbishop of Munich and Freising Bernhard Kellner on Monday announced that he would be suspended from service with “immediate effect.”

Priest H. reportedly abused at least two children in Essen in 1979 and in Bavaria in 1985. He was sentenced to 18 months probation in the latter case.

One victim, 41-year-old Wilfried Fesselmann, is from Gelsenkirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia. He said that he was 11 at the time of the alleged abuse.

According to Fesselmann, the priest invited “nice children” to sleep in the rectory. Priest H. gave Fesselman an alcoholic drink and forced him to perform an oral sex act.

Priest H.’s superior, Prelate Josef Obermaier, resigned on Monday. A spokesman for the archdiocese said he accepts responsibility for “serious errors in the course of his supervision.”

Some media reports have tried to link Pope Benedict XVI to the scandal because he was Archbishop of Munich and Freising between 1977 and 1982.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See's Press Office, released a statement on Saturday morning on the issue. He said that a recent communiqué from the Archdiocese of Munich answers questions about Priest H. He stressed that the document shows that as archbishop the future Pope Benedict was completely "extraneous" to the decisions made after the abuses were verified.

The archdiocese said during Pope Benedict’s tenure as archbishop Priest H. was in the pastoral care of the vicar general at the time, Fr. Gerhard Gruber.

"Gruber assumes full responsibility for these mistaken decisions," the archdiocese reported.

Fr. Lombardi’s statement also criticized media coverage of the charges.

"It's rather evident that in recent days there are those who have sought - with a certain tenacity, in Regensburg and in Munich - elements for personally involving the Holy Father in the questions of the abuses. For every objective observer, it's clear that these efforts have failed."

The Vatican spokesman concluded by reaffirming that "despite the tempest," the Church sees the course to follow "under the sure and rigorous guide of the Holy Father."

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California candidate for governor aims to reduce abortions, thinks Prop. 8 ‘settled’ marriage

Sacramento, Calif., Mar 17, 2010 (CNA) - California gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner is committed to reducing the number of abortions to zero and thinks same-sex “marriage” was “settled” by Proposition 8, a campaign official has said.

Poizner, a Republican who is presently State Insurance Commissioner, faces former eBay CEO Meg Whitman in the Republican primary.

In a Tuesday interview, CNA spoke with Lanhee Chen, the policy director for Poizner’s campaign.

Asked about Poizner’s policy on abortion, he said Poizner is “committed to driving the number of abortions to zero” and opposes late-term abortions.

“It’s an issue that I think he’s personally examined since he’s entered public life,” Chen added.

His view comes to him “from being a father as well as from his personal faith, which is Jewish. It’s a combination of all those factors.”

However, Chen told CNA the gubernatorial candidate would not be supportive of outlawing all abortions.

Rather, for him the question is how policymakers can work together to bring the number of abortions down to zero.

Poizner favors parental notification as “one very good way” to advance that goal.

“That’s where the fight is going to be,” Chen commented, reporting the candidate favors the 2010 Parental Notification Initiative.

On the issue of same-sex marriage, Poizner voted in favor of Proposition 8 and “believes strongly in traditional marriage.”

“On marriage the voters of California have spoken pretty resoundingly twice now in the last several years” Chen continued.

For Chen and “a lot of people,” the marriage issue is “a settled question.”

“Advocates aren’t going to stop trying to bring the issue up again, but from Steve’s perspective it is settled,” he told CNA.

“He’s really well-positioned in this race. He is the conservative alternative here in California,” Chen continued, saying he is “what California voters are looking for right now.”

The policy director cited the state’s “huge” budget problem and the departure of businesses and individuals from the state.

Supporters of social conservatism and “values voters,” claimed Chen, are “coalescing” around Poizner and “feel pretty strongly he is going to be the best alternative for social conservatives in this election.”

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Holy See confirms creation of Medjugorje Commission

Vatican City, Mar 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A statement was released by the Holy See on Wednesday confirming the formation of a commission to investigate the “phenomenon” of Medjugorje.

The Vatican communique reads: “Under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the presidency of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, an international commission of investigation on Medjugorje has been constituted. Said Commission, composed of cardinals, bishops and experts will work in a reserved manner, subjecting the results of their studies to the authority of the Dicastery.”

Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said that no other information was available at this point besides the role of Cardinal Ruini as president. However, he did say that the commission will be formed by “more or less” 20 members.

Responding to a question from a journalist about the possible inclusion of Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar, whose diocese includes Medjugorje, Fr. Lombardi said that he is not in possession of a list of members.

The Vatican spokesman reviewed the history of investigations into the possible Marian apparitions of Medjugorje, noting that they began on a diocesan level. When it was seen that the “phenomenon was broader than the diocese,” it was passed on to the episcopal conference of the former Yugoslavia, which, he noted, no longer exists.

The commissions at those levels never came to a conclusion on the question of whether or not the alleged apparitions are supernatural, so the bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina have asked the CDF to take over investigations, the Vatican spokesman explained.

As the commission carries out their activities, Fr. Lombardi continued, they will decide whether or not to communicate information regarding their findings. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that it will be a “very discreet” project “given the sensitivity of the subject,” he remarked.

Speaking in Italian, he said to expect that investigations will take “a good while” to reach their completion and emphasized that the results of the commission’s activities will be submitted to the CDF, under whose mandate they are operating. The commission will only offer their technical findings to the Congregation, which in turn will “make decisions on the case.”

For now, the composition of the commission is “reserved,” as is the method they will pursue in their investigations, Fr. Lombardi said in closing.

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Love goes farther than reason in understanding God, Pope Benedict says

Vatican City, Mar 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Under a clear blue sky and on a perfect spring day, Pope Benedict XVI hosted the faithful and pilgrims in the open air of St. Peter’s Square for today’s audience. The teachings of the Holy Father’s catechesis once again centered on the figure of St. Bonaventure, with the Pope highlighting the saint's belief that love surpasses reason in entering "more profoundly into the mystery of God.”

Summarizing some of the work of the two saints, the Pope said that these two 13th century theologians “define differently the ultimate destination of man (which is) his full happiness.”

The Pope said that for the “great thinker” St. Thomas, the “supreme end” was “to see God.”

“In this simple act of seeing God,” the Pope explained about the Dominican’s perspective, “solutions to all problems are found: we are happy, nothing else is necessary.”

For St. Bonaventure, on the other hand, “the ultimate destiny of man is to love God,” said the Holy Father.

“This is for him the most adequate definition of our happiness.”

In pursuing the line of these perspectives, said the Pope, “we could also say that the highest category for St. Thomas is the truth, while for St. Bonaventure it is the good.”

However, he added, “it would be wrong to see in these two responses a contradiction. For both, the truth is also the good, and the good is also the truth; seeing God is loving and loving is seeing.

“It’s about different emphases of a fundamentally common decision. Both emphases have formed distinct traditions and distinct spiritualities and so have shown the fecundity of the faith, one in the diversity of their expressions.”

Further explaining the roots of the theology and thought of St. Bonaventure, the Holy Father illustrated the mystic influence on him from the teachings of the 6th century Syrian theologian, so-called "Pseudo-Dionysius." Through his writings, taught the Pope, the saint saw that "love extends beyond reason, it sees more, enters more profoundly into the mystery of God.”

The Pope said that St. Bonaventure was "fascinated" by the idea that love still has sight in the “dark night of the Cross all the greatness of divine love appears: where reason no longer sees, love does. ... This is not anti-intellectual or anti-rational; it accepts the path of reason but transcends it in the love of the crucified Christ.”

"With this transformation of the mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius, St. Bonaventure put himself at the beginning of a great mystic current, that elevated and purified the human mind greatly: it is a summit in the story of the human spirit," observed the Pope.

In addition to this "theology of the Cross," said the Holy Father, we should not forget that the saint shared the love for creation and joy over the beauty of the creation of God that characterized St. Francis.

In St. Bonaventure's view, said the Pope, all of creation speaks of the "good and beautiful God, of his love," and our lives on Earth are a "pilgrimage - a 'climb' towards God."

At the conclusion of the audience, Pope Benedict XVI met with representatives of the city of Romano Canavese, hometown of Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, who conferred honorary citizenship upon him. The Holy Father visited their city in July of last year.

Wednesday’s general audience marked the first time this year that it has been held outdoors.

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Pope to sign letter to beleaguered Irish Church on Friday

Vatican City, Mar 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Using the platform of Wednesday’s general audience, the Holy Father announced on that he will sign his Pastoral Letter to Irish Catholics on the feast day of St. Joseph. The content of the document is highly anticipated, and is meant to help guide the response to the sexual abuse cases that have “severely shaken” the Irish Church.

Greeting the Irish faithful and pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square on the feast of St. Patrick, Pope Benedict XVI shed light on the timetable for the release of the letter that will address this “painful situation.”

“As you know, in recent months the Church in Ireland has been severely shaken as a result of the child abuse crisis,” said the Pope. “As a sign of my deep concern I have written a Pastoral Letter dealing with this painful situation.”

He continued to say that the letter will be signed on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, “the Guardian of the Holy Family and Patron of the Universal Church,” and will be sent “soon after.”

Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See said that more information should be released on Thursday about the letter’s publication.

At the audience, the Holy Father closed his greeting to Irish Catholics with asking all of them to “read it for yourselves, with an open heart and in a spirit of faith.

“My hope is that it will help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal.”

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Cardinal Brady calls for renewal of Irish Church on St. Patrick's Day

Armagh, Ireland, Mar 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Sean Brady, Primate of All Ireland, spoke about renewal in his St. Patrick’s day homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, Ireland. The Lord, he said, is calling the Church to admit its sinful nature and seek a "new beginning."

“Ireland and its people have much to be proud of," the cardinal said at Mass. “Yet," he added, "every land and its people have moments of shame.”

"Dealing with the failures of our past, as a country, as a Church, or as an individual is never easy," he said, noting that tensions always exist "between the possibilities we aspire to and our wounded memories and past mistakes."

He offered the examples of Sts. Patrick and Peter who answered the call of God while also describing themselves as sinful men.

"We all experience this tension between being called to follow Jesus – to live up to his values - and the reality of our sinful nature," explained Cardinal Brady. "There is true freedom in humbly acknowledging – like the wounded healers Peter and Patrick – the full truth of our sinfulness."

Following these descriptions, the cardinal took the opportunity to respond to the public reactions to his personal role in documenting a case of pedophilia in 1975 in which the victims were sworn to confidentiality. He expressed his desire "to say to anyone who has been hurt by any failure on my part that I apologize to you with all my heart.”

"I also apologize to all those who feel I have let them down. Looking back I am ashamed that I have not always upheld the values that I profess and believe in."

Redirecting attention to the state of the Church in Ireland, he asserted that the next two years leading up to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin are "the most critical" for the Irish "since the time of St. Patrick," and noted that "God is calling us to a new beginning, to a time of Patrician energy, reform and renewal."

Cardinal Brady told the faithful that the Gospel readings of the St. Patrick's Day Liturgy propose three lessons for renewal. They are: "sincere, prayerful listening to the Word of God," the necessity of listening to the Spirit "as the source of our renewal" and the need to "humbly continue to deal with the enormity of the hurt caused by abuse of children by some clergy and religious and the hopelessly inadequate response to that abuse in the past."

The Primate of All Ireland said that "a sincere, wholehearted and truthful acknowledgment of our sinfulness" must come about and, like Sts. Patrick and Peter, the bishops of Ireland "must acknowledge our failings."

"The integrity of our witness to the Gospel challenges us to own up to and take responsibility for any mismanagement or cover-up of child abuse. For the sake of survivors, for the sake of all the Catholic faithful as well as the religious and priests of this country, we have to stop the drip, drip, drip of revelations of failure.”

The Lord is calling us to a new beginning," the cardinal emphasized, acknowledging that no one knows where that it will lead or whether or not "those who have made mistakes in their past" will have a part in it.

In conclusion, he said that it is a "time for deep prayer and much reflection ..." and that he will use the rest of Lent, Easter and Pentecost "to discern the will of the Holy Spirit.”

"I will reflect on what I have heard from those who have been hurt by abuse," said Cardinal Brady. "I will also talk to people, priests, religious and to those I know and love."

"Pray for those who have been hurt. Pray for the Church. Pray for me," he implored.

Cardinal Brady also expressed his hope in Pope Benedict XVI's forthcoming Pastoral Letter, which the Holy Father announced would be signed this Friday for publication "soon after."

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Christians should be the first to defend life and justice, says Venezuelan cardinal

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 17, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, called on Venezuelans this week to reject violence in all forms, and he reminded Christians of their duty to be the first to defend life and promote justice.

The cardinal, who is recovering from surgery, sent a letter to the faithful noting that the upcoming Holy Week should inspire them to “reject all violence against anyone.”

“Our solidarity with the Divine Nazarene, burdened with sorrow, unjustly and vilely killed, should lead us to reject the violence and injustice that is made manifest in so many crimes: in murder, in the abominable crime of abortion, in kidnappings, in aggression against adversaries, in the violation of human rights, in violence against women and children, in the injustice that often occurs in the legal system, in conflicts and in political intolerance,” he said.

Cardinal Urosa reminded the faithful that “Christians must be on the front lines in the practice of justice and the defense of the weak.  And this obligation falls particularly on those who because of their formation or profession, or because of their positions of leadership, have the obligation to be courageous and firm promoters of justice and peace.”

“Let us affirm the value of each human person and let us reject that terrible violence that fills the streets of our beloved Caracas with blood,” he said.

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Mexican legal expert urges government action to protect registrars' consciences

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 17, 2010 (CNA) - A leading expert in Mexican law has called on legislators in Mexico City to guarantee the right to conscientious objection for civil registrars who oppose the new law on homosexual unions.  Alberto Patino Reyes said the promoters of the law were seeking to gain support from a particular voting bloc that is active in politics, the media and academia.

“It is necessary to protect officials of the Civil Registrar when the State becomes more and more interventionist, legislating on questions of profound ethical import, in this case attempting to make homosexual unions equivalent to marriage between a man and a woman,” Patino said.

He noted that the Mexican legal system lacks “express recognition of the right to conscientious objection,” but that the Mexican State is obliged to respect it because of the international accords it has ratified. These agreements include the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights and the San Jose Pact, “which recognize the right of the person to freedom of conscience and religion” and are “hierarchically above federal laws.”

Patino stressed that when there is a conflict between conscience and the civil law, Civil Registrar officials experience a serious moral burden, and for this reason, “the State must guarantee what matters, which is the conscience of each official … since conscientious objection is an individual and not a collective right.”

“Conscientious objection, although it has roots in institutionalized religious beliefs, is essentially an individual phenomenon,” Patino said.  “It is the conscience of each person that, on the basis of one’s autonomy as an individual, generates a conflict with a concrete legal obligation,” he explained.

For this reason, Patino asked, “Just as they legislated on a matter that touches the moral fibers of the person, will they promote a law to guarantee conscientious objection for officials who for reasons of conscience refuse to obey this new norm?”

“The last word belongs to lawmakers, not only in Mexico City, the problem also includes federal lawmakers,” he said.

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Peace building does not belong to the Church alone, Colombian bishop insists

Bogotá, Colombia, Mar 17, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Jaime Prieto Amaya of Cucuta in Colombia said this week during a forum on national reconciliation that “all men and women” in the country must take up the task of building peace and not “leave it only in the hands of the Church.”

The forum was organized by the National Reconciliation Commission and was held at the San Jose Seminary in Cucuta.  During his remarks, Bishop Prieto said, “The theme of peace is of such seriousness that we cannot leave it merely in the hands of leaders or politicians or administrators or economists or experts on violence.”

“The issue of peace is so complex that neither can we leave it merely only in the hands of the Church or the Churches,” he continued. “Peace is a task for all, men and women. It is real issue and the reality is not only material or temporal.  It is also eternal and transcendent,” he underscored.

The bishop voiced his support for events such as the forum, which help to focus proposals and actions for improving the country in a way that brings together efforts at the local and national levels.

The forum in Cucuta was attended by some 500 individuals, including civil, military and Church officials.  Its final conclusions will be presented at a National Meeting in Bogota at the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia March 29-31.

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Bishops of Northern Colorado warn against pro-Obama Catholic organizations

Denver, Colo., Mar 17, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a direct rebuke to pro-Obama Catholic organizations pushing for support of the president's health care bill, the Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput and his auxiliary bishop, James D. Conley, released a statement cautioning Catholics not to be "fooled" into supporting the bill due to its pro-abortion language. 

"In the past two days," the statement says, “Congressional leaders and the White House have brought tremendous pressure on pro-life Democratic members of Congress to support a fatally flawed Senate version of health care reform."

"Regrettably, groups like Network and the Catholic Health Association have done a grave disservice to the American Catholic community by undermining the leadership of the nation’s Catholic bishops, sowing confusion among faithful Catholics, and misleading legislators through their support of the Senate bill," the bishops write.

"Do not be fooled.  Nothing has changed.  The Senate bill remains gravely flawed on the issues of abortion funding, conscience protections and the inclusion of immigrants.  Unless seriously revised to address these issues, the Senate version of health care is unethical and should be firmly opposed," the statement concludes.


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