How to Help the Philippines

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Typhoon Haiyan was one of the worst storms ever recorded.

America dispatched forces, at the request of the Philippine government, to help with the devastation caused by Hurricane Haiyan.

From NBC News:

American forces were dispatched to the Philippines as the Pacific island country struggled to cope Sunday after one of the most powerful storms in recorded history killed thousands — possibly as many as 10,000 — and wreaked damage far worse than expected.

“At the request of the government of Philippines, Secretary Hagel has directed U.S. Pacific Command to support U.S. government humanitarian relief operations in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan,” the Department of Defense said in a statement late on Saturday night.  

The first wave of U.S. force  — a team of 90 Marines and sailors — flew to Philippines on Sunday to assist with search and rescue operations and provide air support, the Marines said in a statement.

The Pope offered prayers and urged Catholics everywhere to pitch in and help these people.

From Catholic Herald.co.uk:

Pope Francis led prayers for people hit by a deadly typhoon in the Philippines and surrounding region, and asked that concrete aid be sent soon.

During the Angelus with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square yesterday, the pope expressed his concern and prayers for the estimated tens of thousands of people dead and others affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated parts of the central Philippines over the weekend.

“I wish to express my closeness to the people of the Philippines and that region that has been hit by a terrible typhoon. Unfortunately the victims are many and the damage is enormous,” he said.

He asked the tens of thousands of people gathered in the square to join him in a moment of silent prayer “for these brothers and sisters and let’s try also to make our concrete help reach them.”

In response to the tragedy, Pope Francis made an initial donation of $150,000 for the relief efforts through the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

The money, sent through the local churches hardest hit by the storm, was earmarked to support “assistance for the displaced and those impacted by the flooding,” the Vatican said in a written statement.

The pope also sent a telegram to Philippine President Benigno Aquino saying he was “deeply pained by the destruction and loss of human lives”.

In the message, he also encouraged civil authorities and rescue workers in their efforts and prayed that God would offer “the nation strength and consolation.”

Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based confederation of humanitarian agencies of the Catholic Church, reported today that more than 9.5 million people are in need of aid and 600,000 people have been forced from their homes.

Here is a list of places you can contact to give aid to the people in the Phillipines:

Catholic Relief Services

Caritas Manila

Save the Children 

Salvation Army

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

Samaritan’s Purse

Anglican Overseas Aid 

Philippine Red Cross

Message to the Vatican: Traditional Families Need Your Help

After all the hullaballoo, it turns out that the Vatican is not seeking input from the laity about it teachings, procedures, or anything else.

The survey the Vatican announced a week ago is designed to collect raw data at the diocesan level. It is not, as the popular press implied, a poll of the laity on Church doctrine and discipline. The data will be used as a resource in the 2014 Synod.

I’ve seen the survey, and I hope that it is not fully reflective of the issues that will be considered in the Synod. I am concerned that it is too focused on the needs of “new” family structures and not enough on how the Church can better support the traditional family.

I realize that the problems and the noise from those in “new” family structures tends to focus Vatican attention. But while those in “new” family structures are making all the demands and creating all the fuss, traditional families are quietly foundering.

Men and women, husbands and wives, in traditional Catholic families need a lot — and I mean a lot — more teaching and support, both spiritual and practical, from their Church. I hope that the bishops do not have the idea that what the Church is doing now to support traditional families within their care is enough. It simply is not, and I point to the need for this survey on “new” family structures as an indication of how serious the problem is becoming.

The huge increase in these “new” family structures which predicates surveys and Synods on how to deal with them is, to a great extent, testimony to the fact that traditional families have been suffering and failing. Traditional family has been under unremitting, concerted attack for almost 5 decades now. The Church needs to change how it supports traditional families to reflect this reality.

We need new and more inclusive ways of nurturing healthy Catholic families for the simple reason that traditional Christian families are under such enormous destructive pressure in this post Christian society. This destructive pressure bears down on every area of family life, from the way jobs are constructed, to social pressures, to the propaganda our children are inundated with in the public schools.

As Yogi Beara said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

If the church truly is a community, building healthy Catholic families by providing practical support of many types has to be part of its ministry.

From the National Catholic Register:

Vatican Collecting Diocesan Data, Not Lay Opinions in Worldwide Survey (2030)

Multiple media reports have given rise to the misconception that Pope Francis is polling Catholics for their views on Church teaching and practices.

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Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi and Archbishop Bruno Forte, special secretary of the 2014 Synod of Bishops, speak Nov. 5 at the Vatican.

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis wants to know about the state of marriage and the family in the Church, before the bishops meet in Rome for an extraordinary synod next year. However, the lay faithful should not expect to be receiving a survey on their views from the Vatican anytime soon.

For one thing, the Vatican’s survey is being handled at the diocesan level, and the aim is to collect raw data, not opinions on Church doctrine or discipline, in advance of the 2014 synod. The data will help inform the bishops as they develop pastoral solutions for the challenges faced by modern families.

“Each bishop determines what is the most useful and reasonable manner of consultation to assist him in preparing his report for the Vatican,” said Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Clemmer said once a diocese completes its report, the data will be sent back to the USCCB and then forwarded on to the Vatican.

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/vatican-collecting-diocesan-data-not-lay-opinions-in-worldwide-survey?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-11-8%2022:12:01#ixzz2kAjgql7O

President Requires Insurance Coverage for Mental Illness and Addiction

Drug addiction

President Obama has used his mighty law-making pen to require all insurance carriers to provide coverage for mental health treatment and addiction in the same manner as they do physical illnesses.

This is part of a package of regulations designed to stop the mass shootings this country has experienced. The proponents of this action say that it will not result in a large increase in the cost of health care coverage. I do not believe that. I think it will cost a huge amount.

I have unhappy family experience with addiction, and I don’t have much hope that this measure will curb the plague of drug addiction and alcoholism that is warping our society. I’ve seen what happens when people are sentenced to drug treatment by the courts. I’ve also seen what happens when their family persuades them to go to an expensive treatment program.

The drug treatment plan my family member attended because of court order was a scam. The family member was supposed to be in residence 24/7 as part of their treatment, but they came and went as they chose. There was no effort to enforce the rules or kick this person out. The treatment facility was raking in government money and not even enforcing its own rules with people that were sentenced to it by the courts.

I’ve also had unhappy experience with an expensive (very expensive) private treatment program. I went to meetings for family members and did the whole nine yards. The place was full of doctors, police, and others who had been sent there in order to keep their professional standing. They were not sorry. About anything.

The viewpoint expressed in meetings was that their families, friends and colleagues were … I can’t repeat the language … for being angry with them for the things they’d done in their addictions. These were privileged people, doing the doh-si-doh required for them to keep their license.

My family member went through the program and then got out and went right back to using.

On the other hand, I have seen people stop using and rebuild their lives and reclaim their souls just by going to the entirely free and voluntary Alcoholics Anonymous program.

No drug treatment program will help people who don’t want to be helped, and if someone really wants to stop, the expensive programs aren’t necessary. Also, the ones I’ve seen are overpriced — massively overpriced — and catering to their clientele more than they are treating them. Many of them are just raking in government money and processing people with no real concern about treating them.

I am concerned that the mental health care that will come about as a result of this ruling will be somewhat the same.

We have taken the idea of “treatment” as a panacea for ghastly behavior to the max. I have read that some of the young men who have killed large numbers of people in these mass murders were mentally ill. However, most of them were also from privileged well-to-do families with access to any care they needed. In fact, at least one of them that I’ve read about was under treatment at the time he committed the murders.

I am not opposed to mental health care for mentally ill people. In fact, I support it.

But I think that using this treatment as a catch-all cure for what are much deeper social ills will not and can not work. I think it is dodging the real issues, which are complex and require more of us as a society than just paying for some “expert” to fix people for us. I also think that simply handing over the money without stringent requirements about the quality of care is a mistake.

Drug addiction treatment, in particular, is, at least in my experience, over-priced and under-effective unless the person receiving the treatment truly wants to change and is motivated to endure what it takes to do that. In that case, free programs such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous are effective. In fact, from what I’ve seen, Alcoholics Anonymous is actually far more effective and beneficial than expensive treatment programs.

I realize that desperate family members who drain their life savings to send their loved ones to treatment for their addictions are doing it because the person they love will not go to meetings, do the work and endure the suffering required to heal from their addiction. They are losing someone they love and they are willing to do anything — including destroy themselves financially — to save them.

I have felt the same desperation and grieved the same grief over someone I love who is caught in the living death of addiction.

However, I speak from experience with the tragedy of addiction when I say that it’s up to the addicted person to want to change. If they ever reach the point that they are motivated to get help because they want to change for themselves, then AA or AN will do a fine job of helping them heal. Otherwise, bankrupting yourself will not help them.

By the same token, forcing insurance companies to open their coffers to pay for these outrageously expensive drug treatment programs will not help people who do not want to change, either. Statements that this will not raise the cost of health care are nonsense. These programs are massively expensive.

Since health insurance is now on the government dole, it will almost certainly end up contributing to our burgeoning national debt.

I wish there was a magic cure for these problems, but there isn’t.

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday will complete a generation-long effort to require insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction just like physical illnesses when it issues long-awaited regulations defining parity in benefits and treatment.

The rules, which will apply to almost all forms of insurance, will have far-reaching consequences for many Americans. In the White House, the regulations are also seen as critical to President Obama’s program for curbing gun violence by addressing an issue on which there is bipartisan agreement: Making treatment more available to those with mental illness could reduce killings, including mass murders.

In issuing the regulations, senior officials said, the administration will have acted on all 23 executive actions that the president and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced early this year to reduce gun crimes after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. In planning those actions, the administration anticipated that gun control legislation would fail in Congress as pressure from the gun lobby proved longer-lasting than the national trauma over the killings of first graders and their caretakers last Dec. 14.

“We feel actually like we’ve made a lot of progress on mental health as a result in this year, and this is kind of the big one,” said a senior administration official, one of several who described the outlines of the regulations that Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, will announce at a mental health conference on Friday in Atlanta with the former first lady Rosalynn Carter.

Obamacare: The White House Viewpoint

Will Obamacare provide affordable health care or not?

If it does, who will get it?

I received a link to this video in a White House broadcast email today. I think you need to see it and add it to your list of considerations concerning this plan.

I have no idea how accurate it is, or what parameters are being used to come up with these figures. Feel free to add links to other legitimate information in the com boxes.

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Obamacare as a Tax

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The Supreme Court says that Obamacare is a new tax on Americans. 

President Obama agrees. 

That is the basis for the Court’s decision to allow the mandates forcing the American people to buy insurance stand. They are not, in the Court’s view, a mandate to purchase a product. They are, rather, a tax on the American people. 

Ok then, let’s look at Obamacare as a tax. 

Based entirely on what I saw when I went to the website yesterday, this new tax is a hefty one.

Let’s look at the lower end of the income spectrum first. Based on what I saw when I visited the healthcare.gov website, if you have a family of four with two children under the age of 18, and your family income totals less than $35,000 per year, your premium for Obamacare will be somewhere around $1200/year. That comes to a hike in your monthly taxes of about $100/month. 

I am using Oklahoma figures for this estimate, and Oklahoma did not set up a health care exchange. It may be better for those in other states. I hope so. 

My husband and I had a monthly income even lower than this when our kids were little. We qualified for free and reduced lunches at school. A car with 100,000 miles on it was new to us. My husband did all our auto repairs himself, in the driveway in front of our house. I carefully balanced meals to keep us well fed and the grocery bills do-able. Both my husband and I went without clothes, new glasses (even when we were having trouble seeing) and dental work so the kids could have those things.

I can tell you that an extra $100/month tax hike would have been a big bite for us back then. It would have had to come out of necessity money. 

Now, let’s go to the other end. Consider those “wealthy” families of four with two kids under 18 who have a combined family income of $90,000 per year. Housing/automobiles/education/clothing/food/gasoline/etc are all massively more expensive now than they were even a few years ago. If the house hunter shows I watch on HGTV are accurate, home ownership (at least on the coasts) is totally out of sight for the family that makes $35,000/year and barely in sight for the $90,000 earners. 

If a simple three bedroom one bath house costs between $200,000 – $300,00 and even a modest new car costs over $20,000 and a community college with the kid living at home costs $4,000-$5,000/year and gasoline hovers around $4/gallon, as does a gallon of milk, then $90,000 only seems rich to those who are barely scraping by. 

Add another $6,000 or $7,000 in annual taxes for healthcare that was previously paid for by your employer (this is a bit of conjecture that employers are going to be less inclined to provide health insurance after Obamacare sinks in) and things start looking almost as dicey for these $90,000 earners as it did for my husband and me back in the day. 

The point here, at least for me, is that the primary winners in the Obamacare sweepstakes are the insurance companies and a few favored recipients such as Planned Parenthood. In exchange for guaranteed minimum coverage and paying for abortions they get government enforced enrollment in their wares and their premiums become a tax. 

I’m not talking here about the serious considerations of cost to the tax payer in terms of government expenditures to underwrite this plan. That is going to come around and bite us in a more indirect, but perhaps more damaging way as time goes by. 

I personally think that there were any number of better ways to provide health care for those who didn’t have it. I also do not believe that Obamacare is going to “contain” rising health care costs. I think that, by underwriting them, it will probably turn health care costs into something akin to the defense budget and largesse to corporations — an ever-enlarging pork barrel that devours the treasure of this nation. 

Will Obamacare “work?”

Probably. At least somewhat. 

I think that it will provide health care insurance for most Americans. 

But it is also going to eat into their personal finances. What our elected officials don’t seem to get is that the American people are stretched financially like a piano wire already. They’re having to work more than one job each, just to make ends meet. Every passing year, inflation (which government formulas no longer accurately represent) eats deeper into their already stretched budgets, and every passing year, their incomes stagnate or fall. 

Good jobs keep going away. For decades now, the news has been about this or that American corporation leaving this country to go use cheap labor elsewhere to manufacture its wares, which it then sells to the American people. 

We are being robbed. 

Will Obamacare fix this?

Does it even address it?

No and no. 

What it does do is underwrite a medical care system that is deeply flawed and overpriced. It puts insurance companies on the government dole and uses a new direct tax on the American people to pay for that. 

I have always believed that this country had to address the need for affordable health care. I am not a neocon. Far from it. I personally know people who forego necessary medical care because of costs. In fact, I have been one of them. 

However, this plan is more an accommodation to special interests than a solution for those problems. There is a limit on what the budget of the ordinary American can absorb. I think this plans pushes a lot people painfully close to that limit. 

The question, of course, is what Obamacare will look like in years going forward. The tinkering with this plan has not even begun. There is also the question of whether or not it will be repealed by future Congresses. 

Personally, I doubt it. Once the plan locks in and the special interests start getting their take, the political will to either repeal or reform Obamacare will vanish like smoke in your morning coffee. 

 See also: Obamacare Threatens to Hit Many Pocketbooks; Health Care Law Fails to Lower Prices in Rural Areas

I Didn’t Sign Up. But the Obamacare Website Seemed to Work for Me

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I didn’t sign up because I already have health care coverage.

However, I did go to the Obamacare website at healthcare.gov and put myself through the steps. I got to the point where I select a plan and click “buy.”

It worked ok for me.

I dunno. Maybe I didn’t go far enough with it.

Or maybe I have a magic touch.

What I did learn is that the premiums for health care are no bargain. If health insurance wasn’t affordable before Obamacare, it will become a major burden, at least for the middle class, after Obamacare. The premiums I was offered were actually higher than what my employer pays for my insurance.

I played with the numbers a bit, and if I had an income under $35,000 and a family of four with two children under 20, the premiums would become affordable. This is because the government pays a tax credit directly to the insurance company, which subsidizes the health insurance costs of the family. That’s part of where the huge increases in government spending come in.

Obamacare appears to be set up a lot like Medicare, except that Medicare actually is a big cost reducer for the citizen taxpayer. The best plan that I was offered also included the messiness of paying at least 10% of my health care costs out of pocket. Ten percent of the cost of treatment for cancer or something equally serious puts most people into bankruptcy territory.

Beginning in 2015, employers who offer health insurance are going to have to meet the coverage requirements of Obamacare. I imagine that will lead to considerable sticker shock for these employers and that many of them will stop offering health care to their employees.

That will push people who had previously had their health care subsidized by their employer into paying for their own costs through Obamacare. Many of these people will earn enough money that they don’t qualify for the tax credit. They will face a sudden increase in expenditure for health care, and, based on what I saw on the web site, it won’t be a small one.

I am not talking about wealthy people. I mean households with a combined income of say, 90,000 dollars or more. These are people who have to make car and mortgage payments, deal with ever increasing costs in everything from gasoline to tuition, and who fall through all the cracks when it comes to getting help. Obamacare is going to squeeze them.

To summarize: I think Obamacare will be an expensive problem for both the middle class and the government. The people it will help the most are lower-income working couples with young children who make too much money to get other forms of aid and don’t get employer-sponsored health insurance.

I need to add a serious disclaimer to these conclusions in that this is a cursory take on a complicated program. Also, I went through the web site as an Oklahoman and Oklahoma has not set up health care exchanges. Maybe I got higher premiums because of that.

But my takeaway from visiting the web site is that, yes, I at least can use the web site, and, yes, I think Obamacare itself has serious flaws regarding costs to the taxpayer, both in terms of coverage and the costs to our government.

Is This a First? Bishop of Bling is Suspended.

Deacon Greg has the story.

The Vatican has suspended Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the so-called “Bishop of Bling.” This action is less than the calls from at least some quarters in the German public to dismiss the bishop, and it is more than the nothing which many people expected.

Rather than make a public statement about the bishop’s guilt or innocence, the Vatican confined itself to saying simply that “A situation has been created in which the bishop can no longer exercise his episcopal duties.”

From what I’ve read, that is an accurate assessment of the situation.

To read more, check out The Deacon’s Bench.

The Bishop of Bling and the Pope

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Government money is not free.

It is a hammer than can beat people and institutions into the government mold. It is also a great corruptor.

The Church in Germany has been dealing with one particular manifestation of this corruption in the person of the bishop the press and people have dubbed “The Bishop of Bling.”

Germany levies a church tax on those who register as members of a recognized church. The government then cuts a big check to the church where these people are registered.

What that means is that the Catholic Church (among others) does not have to deal with the messiness of the people in the pews in order to get their do-re-mi. The government sends them a check to the tune (in the Catholic example) of billions of dollars. Not only does this lead inexorably to a Church that is out of contact with its people and content to be fat and indifferent, but it can and does lead to the personal corruption of individual bishops.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, bishop of Limburg, Germany, has been called to Rome to explain his actions regarding the finances of his diocese. The reason is that he has used the vast government monies that are dumped in his coffers for himself. He’s spent tens of millions renovating his house, flies first class, drives an expensive car and otherwise lives large.

There is also a question as to whether or not the bishop lied under oath about these expenditures. That is something I want to let the courts — rather than public outrage — decide.

All this runs counter to the kind of Church that Pope Francis is calling for. It harkens back to the embarrassing excesses of half a millennia ago.

It is also entirely different from the behavior of the bishops I have known. My own archbishop lives in an unpretentious ranch-style house and flies in the we-hate-our-passengers class at the back of the plane. I know. I’ve coincidentally ended up on several flights with him. He’s patient and kind to the people — including me — who come up to him in airports, and he stands in line with his roller bag along with the rest of us.

Behavior like that of Bishop Tebartz-van Elst denies the people in their diocese the rightful use of their monies, harms the trust that people should have in their Church and smears good bishops like mine whose behavior is the antithesis of these abuses.

The Holy Father has requested a report concerning Bishop Tebartz-van Elst’s activities. In the meantime, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst has been called to Rome to explain himself.

This is one time I would not want to be a fly on the proverbial wall while a conversation is going on. I’m happy to leave the bishop in the hands of our pope. I believe that the Holy Father will sort this out in a way that only a follower of Christ could.

From ABC News:

After being kept waiting nearly one week for an appointment, German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst was able to meet with Pope Francis today at Vatican to explain his lavish use of church funds.

The Bishop of Limburg – now known as the Bishop of Bling — has spent some $42 million to renovate his official residence and is accused of falsifying expense reports.

The pope, who has used the Throne of St. Peter to preach for a “poor” church and has set the example by rejecting the opulence available to his position, released no statement following the meeting.

Pope Francis had been briefed last week by the head of the German Bishop’s conference. German press reports say the Vatican has asked Archbishop Robert Zollitsch to file an official report on the affair, speculating that the fate of Bishop Tebartz van Elst may only be decided after it is filed.

The bishop of Limburg admits using church funds to restore his residence but has defended his actions, saying the renovations of the church property involved 10 different buildings that had to be upgraded according to historical preservation laws. But the scandal has caused a great uproar in Germany, where a mandatory church tax for members brings in billions of dollars the German Catholic Church each year.

Christian Weisner, of the lay organization We Are the Church, said the bishop’s actions seriously damaged the reputation of the church.

Southern Baptist Convention Files Suit Against HHS Mandate


The Southern Baptist Convention has joined dozens of other religious organizations by filing suit against the Obama adminstration’s HHS Mandate. Southern Baptists are the second largest denomination in America, with over 16 million members.

My question: Where are you Marymount Loyola?

From the CBN News:

The Obama administration has said churches and a narrowly defined category of religious organizations are exempt. But the administration is still threatening devastating penalties to many other ministry organizations, like Christian colleges, missions organizations, and family ministries.

“The government’s refusal to treat these ministries as ‘religious employers’ is senseless,” Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a written statement.

“These people spend their lives teaching and preaching their religious faith – if they do not qualify as ‘religious employers,’ the government needs to get a new definition,” Rienzi said.

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