Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Catholic social justice lobby that describes itself as “a progressive voice within the Catholic community” is asking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to spend a day with those who serve the poor but it will not be extending a similar invitation to President Obama.
Recent advertisements by Romney’s campaign in support of work requirements for welfare benefits show that he is “out of touch with the very difficult struggles of working-poor families,” said Network communications coordinator Stephanie Niedringhaus, explaining the reason for the group's response.
However, she told CNA, the organization is not issuing a similar invitation to President Obama, despite recent statements from his campaign indicating that he also supports a work requirement for welfare.
On August 8, Network issued a press release inviting Romney to “spend a day with Catholic Sisters who work every day to meet the needs of struggling families in their communities.”
Niedringhaus said that the offer extended to Romney was a specific response to “the ad he endorsed regarding welfare.”
The Romney campaign released two advertisements on welfare in the days preceding the press release.
The first ad explained that “work for welfare” was part of a bipartisan welfare reform effort signed by President Bill Clinton. It cited concerns that without such requirements, recipients of welfare could receive federal funding indefinitely without working or training for a job.
The second ad expanded on the first, showing footage of Democrats who supported the bill, including former President Bill Clinton, who described is as a way to help people “stop drawing a welfare check and start drawing a paycheck,” and U.S. Senator John Kerry, who called the legislation “an important change.”
The ads accused Obama of taking actions that weakened the work requirement in the welfare system.
Neither of the ads included statements by Romney on welfare, nor did they include any speculation on the motives of people who apply for welfare.
But Niedringhaus said that the ads show that Romney thinks “people are poor because they are lazy, unwilling to work.”
Responding to the advertisements, White House press secretary Jay Carney said on August 9 that the president is actually attempting to strengthen work requirements for welfare.
In addition, a post on the White House blog insisted that “no one wants to waive or dismantle the work requirement” in the welfare system, but rather, that the Obama administration is seeking to “maintain a strong work requirement.”
Furthermore, Vice President Joe Biden was shown in one of the ads as supporting work requirements for welfare when the original law was passed during his time in the Senate.
However, Niedringhaus said that Network has no plans to extend a similar invitation to President Obama or Vice President Biden.
Asked to respond to the White House blog post indicating that Obama shares Romney’s support for work requirements, she responded, “The issue is that the ad was wrong,” adding that it was “dishonest” about Obama’s record.
Unemployment rates under the Obama administration have consistently remained above eight percent, and a Census Bureau report last year revealed that the number of Americans living in poverty was the highest it had been in more than half a century.
Niedringhaus acknowledged that Network is “concerned about unemployment and poverty rates.”
However, she stated, the Obama administration’s policies “do more to help people rise out of poverty” than the alternatives endorsed by Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan.
Denver, Colo., Aug 15, 2012 (CNA) - A spokesman for a Catholic family-owned business in Colorado is asking President Obama to respect his family’s faith after the president reaffirmed his support for the controversial contraception mandate during a recent campaign swing through the state.
“Instead of rewarding political special interests and punishing family businesses, the president should instead be true to the oath he swore to uphold and defend the Constitution and religious freedom,” Andy Newland, Vice President of Hercules Industries, told CNA Aug. 13.
“At Hercules we offer generous compensation and benefits to all our employees, including for women's health, pregnancy and wellness. We are only asking that the government not force our family to violate its faith in order to earn a living and create jobs.”
Hercules Industries manufactures heating, ventilation and air conditioning units and has locations in several U.S. states. Its owners, William Newland, Paul Newland, James Newland, and Christine Ketterhagen, all identify as practicing Catholics.
On July 27 a federal judge in Denver granted the Newlands and their business a legal injunction against a Department of Health and Human Services mandate they say forces them to violate their Catholic beliefs.
The HHS mandate requires most employers to provide no co-pay insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some early abortion-causing drugs. The mandate’s narrow religious exemption would not apply to many Catholic charities, health care systems, and universities. It lacks any protections for secular businesses run by Catholics and others who object to providing the coverage.
Employers who refuse to provide the coverage face possible fines of $100 dollars per employee per day. Hercules Industries employs 300 people.
The Obama administration has said it will work to provide an accommodation for religious institutions. However, it has also advocated against broad exemptions.
President Obama reaffirmed his support for the mandate in a campaign rally on Denver’s Auraria Campus last week.
He criticized his opponent, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, for favoring legislation the president said would “allow any employer to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees.”
“It would be up to the employer to decide. Your boss, telling you what’s best for your health, your safety,” the president said Aug. 8.
Andy Newland questioned why the law’s many other exemptions would not apply to the HHS mandate.
“The federal government cannot pick and choose what faith is and who can practice faith, and then target people of faith for punishment while exempting nearly 200 million other people from this mandate for purely political reasons,” Newland said.
Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2012 (CNA) -
The U.S. bishops' point man on domestic justice issues has called for an economic renewal that places “working people and their families at the center of economic life.”
“Everyone and every institution has a role to play in building a more just economy,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., who chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
He recalled the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II that both “society and the State must ensure wage levels adequate for the maintenance of the worker and his family.”
In his 2012 Labor Day statement, the bishop reflected on the “moral and human dimensions” of “a broken economy that is not producing enough decent jobs.”
He observed that more than 46 million people in the U.S. live in poverty, and more than 16 million children grow up in poverty.
In addition, he noted, there are more than 12 million people looking for work but unable to find it, “and millions more have actually given up seeking employment.”
Millions of other individuals are “underemployed,” wishing to work full time but unable to find a job that allows them to do so, he added, while over 10 million families are “working poor,” unable to meet their basic needs despite being employed.
These numbers show “a serious economic and moral failure for our nation,” Bishop Blaire said. He called for the faithful to show solidarity to those who are struggling, in order to help them meet basic needs.
At the same time, he said, there is a need for “national economic renewal,” keeping in mind the dignity of human work while building “an economy that serves the person rather than the other way around.”
“Work is more than a paycheck,” the bishop explained, “it helps raise our families, develop our potential, share in God's creation, and contribute to the common good.”
The current broken economy brings concrete harm to workers and families, he warned, adding that it also increases the danger of workers being exploited, especially vulnerable immigrant families.
The Church works to help laborers who have been mistreated, showing them care and solidarity, he said. But such abuses also demand “our attention and action,” calling us to look at the effects of our economic choices and whether they contribute to the denial of the inherent human dignity of working people.
The necessary economic renewal will require the cooperation of “business, religious, labor, and civic organizations,” Bishop Blaire said.
He explained that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is currently “developing a pastoral reflection on work, poverty, and a broken economy,” which will draw from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclicals and will encourage solidary, prayer, discussion and action.
Bishop Blaire also highlighted the “unique and essential responsibility” of unions and other worker associations in achieving effective economic renewal.
Unions show the Catholic principle of solidarity “by bringing workers together to speak and act collectively to protect their rights and pursue the common good,” he said. They also demonstrate subsidiarity by “forming associations of workers to have a voice, articulate their needs, and bargain and negotiate with the large economic institutions and structures of government.”
Unfortunately, he acknowledged, unions – like other intuitions – sometimes fall short of their responsibility, pursuing narrow self-interests rather than the common good and causing polarization and partisanship.
However, rather than negating Church teaching on unions, these shortcomings demand “renewed focus” and public discussion on how to defend the interests of workers, the bishop explained.
“Public officials rightfully debate the need to reduce unsustainable federal deficits and debt,” he said, adding that candidates should offer specific steps to “resist and overcome poverty” in the nation.
Reflecting on the “urgent and compelling needs” of many workers and their families this Labor Day, Bishop Blaire offered a special prayer for “all workers, especially those without a job struggling to live in dignity.”
“May God guide our nation in creating a more just economy that truly honors the dignity of work and the rights of workers,” he said.
La Paz, Bolivia, Aug 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Francisco Tito Yupanqui, a 16th century Indian from the Aymara Tribe famous for sculpting the statue of Our Lady of Copacabana, is one step closer to becoming the first Bolivian saint.
Bishop Jesus Juarez of El Alto, in the province of Copacabana, has formed a historical commission as the first important step on towards beatification.
The group's members include the National Rector of the Bolivian Catholic University, Augustinian expert in Bolivian history Father Hans van den Berg, and a theological commission headed up by the judicial vicar of the Archdiocese of Copacabana, Father Miguel Manzanera.
On Aug. 5, Fr. van den Berg presented a book entitled, “Francisco Tito Yupanqui, Servant of God,” which contains important information that has been gathered in the last four years about the life of the Aymaran Indian, who was evangelized by Dominican friars more than four centuries ago.
He said Yupanqui finally carved the statue of Mary venerated at Copacabana after his third try out of wood from a maguey tree.
The Aymaran Indian had great “perseverance because he promised the people of Copacabana that he would make a bust of the Virgin Mary, despite opposition from some who said, 'What can an Indian do? Impossible. We need to bring a professionally made state from Spain.'”
Fr. van den Berg said Tito Yupanqui is “a very important figure for Catholics and more so because he is an Indian.”
“There is a lot of scientific proof” to support his beatification cause, he added.
The Augustinian historian will deliver his report to the Vatican in October for a meeting of the Commission, which the bishop of El Alto will also attend.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Archbishop Jose Maria Arancedo of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz, Argentina said devotion to the Virgin Mary has solid biblical and ecclesial roots that culminate in an encounter with Christ.
“Devotion to the Virgin Mary has its most solid foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and in the Tradition of the Church,” he said.
“We cannot speak of her apart from God’s plan, and this makes it a profoundly biblical devotion. At the same time, the presence of Mary with the apostles at the birth of the Church made her a unique point of reference for the Christian people,” he added.
In his reflection for the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary on Aug. 15, Archbishop Arancedo said this devotion is also deeply ecclesial.
“The certainty of her divine maternity – she is the Mother of the Son of God – was the assurance for defining the divine nature of Jesus Christ at the Council of Ephesus.
She was not the mother of a man, but rather the Mother of God. Therefore, devotion to the Virgin Mary is the expression of a mature biblical and ecclesial spirituality. This has been the tradition of the Christian people,” he said.
Archbishop Arancedo said that Mary’s role should therefore be understood within God’s plan, “in which everything is oriented towards Jesus Christ...In the Gospel she herself will see to directing our eyes to her Son: 'Do whatever he tells you.'”
“As the chosen daughter of God, she teaches us to relate to Him in a climate of trust and gratitude. She knows that the personal love of God for her entails a calling, a mission, and she lives it with the joy and humility of the truth,” he continued.
“An authentic devotion to Mary should lead us to imitate her attitude of faith,” Archbishop Arancedo said, “in order to see ourselves in God’s plan and to find meaning for our lives in Jesus Christ. The encounter with Christ is the culmination of our devotion to the Most Holy Virgin.”
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Having been taken into heaven both spiritually and bodily, the Virgin Mary helps believers to grow in “Christian hope” during their earthly lives, Pope Benedict XVI taught on the Feast of the Assumption.
The Pope celebrated Mass at Castel Gandolfo’s parish church of St. Thomas of Villanova on the Aug. 15 solemnity. During his homily, he said Mary's intercession with God can “help us to live well and with hope the time that God gives to us” on earth.
In remarks reported by Vatican Radio, he noted that the virtue of Christian hope “is not just nostalgia for Heaven,” but a “living and active desire for God here in the world.” That desire “makes us indefatigable pilgrims,” providing “the courage and strength of faith” through “the power of love.”
The Pope also observed that by entering the fullness of life with God, the Virgin Mary was not leaving behind the faithful on earth, but instead becoming closer to all.
Dogmatically defined in 1950, the assumption of the Virgin Mary's body and soul into heaven is a perennial part of the Church's faith, Pope Benedict told pilgrims who joined him to pray the Angelus at his summer residence later in the day.
He explained that Christ's mother, who was “redeemed from the first moment of her life,” is “associated in a special way” with the mystery of Christ's own life, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.
Mary's physical and spiritual entry into God's presence represents “the Paschal Mystery of Christ fully realized in her,” as she is “intimately united with her Son” and “fully conformed to him.”
“But the Assumption is a reality that touches us too,” the Pope reflected, pointing out that it shows “the reality of the glory” to which God calls “each of us and the whole Church.”
As Pope Benedict greeted pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace for the mid-day Angelus on Wednesday, he expressed his desire that “the example and prayers of Mary, Queen of Heaven” would “inspire and sustain us on our pilgrimage of faith.”
Under her protection, believers on earth may hope to “rejoice with her in the glory of the Resurrection and the fulfillment of her Son’s promises.”
New York City, N.Y., Aug 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York defended his decision to invite President Barack Obama to a traditional fundraising dinner as being an effort to engage, not endorse, the president.
Cardinal Dolan explained that “an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner is not an award, or the provision of a platform to expound views at odds with the Church.”
Rather, he said, the dinner is “an occasion of conversation,” designed to gather people together for an “evening of friendship, civility, and patriotism, to help those in need, not to endorse either candidate.”
In an Aug. 14 blog post on the Archdiocese of New York website, the cardinal responded to criticism over his invitation of Obama to the upcoming Al Smith foundation fundraiser.
Cardinal Dolan followed a decades-old election year custom of inviting both the Democratic and Republican candidates to the comedy-oriented fundraiser and reported that both Obama and GOP contender Mitt Romney had agreed to attend.
News of the invitation has led to questions and complaints from Catholics who believe that it may undermine the bishops’ work to defend religious liberty from the threats posed by the current administration.
Concerns over religious freedom have grown immensely due to a federal mandate issued by the Obama administration to require employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and early abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
Bishops from every diocese in the country have spoken out against the mandate, and numerous dioceses have joined with Catholic colleges, businesses and charitable organizations in filing lawsuits challenging the regulation.
The president’s support for abortion and “gay marriage” also clash with Church teaching and have drawn criticism from Church leaders.
Acknowledging the demands of “faithful citizenship” as both a Catholic and an American, Cardinal Dolan said that the Al Smith Dinner has been an example of “civility in political life” for nearly seven decades.
The dinner marks “the only time outside of the presidential debates that the two presidential candidates come together,” he said, and the result is “an evening of positive, upbeat, patriotic, enjoyable civil discourse.”
Named after Governor Al Smith, who became the first Catholic nominated as a presidential candidate in 1928, the dinner raises money to support the needs of mothers and their babies, including their unborn children, he added.
Cardinal Dolan noted the unity and persistence of the bishops’ objections to the mandate and other problematic policies. He promised that the invitation does not indicate “a slackening in our vigorous promotion” of Catholic values.
The cardinal apologized if his actions had given scandal, as some of his critics have claimed, and reiterated that neither candidate’s presence at the dinner is an endorsement. He said that the invitation of Obama was “a case of prudential judgment” based on Catholic principles.
Church teaching, as expressed in the Second Vatican Council, is that the Church should have a posture of “engagement and dialogue” with the “culture, society, and government,” he said.
He explained that it is better to open the doors of dialogue than to close off those with whom you disagree, pointing to the gracious way in which Pope Benedict XVI received President Obama for a visit.
“And, in the current climate, we bishops have maintained that we are open to dialogue with the administration to try and resolve our differences,” he said. “What message would I send if I refused to meet with the President?”
Cardinal Dolan requested that the faithful – whether they agree or disagree with his decision – pray for him and his fellow bishops as they work to make difficult choices.
Recalling that Christ was criticized for dining with those considered sinners, he observed that “if I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone.”