Freedom of Religion Legislative Action Alert

I received the following legislative action alert concerning the HHS Mandate in an email this morning. 

The alert asks people to contact their Congresspeople urging them to make the repealing the HHS Mandate a sticking point in the Fiscal Cliff/Sequester fight currently going on in Congress right now.

In my opinion, our supporters in Congress should have done this a year ago, before the Mandate took effect. But, later is much better than never.

You can contact your Senators and Representatives by calling their local offices or you can do it by email. To learn who your elected officials in Washington are, and get their phone numbers and email addresses, go here

This is the full text of the alert, which comes from the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment:

In 2012, the Obama Administration’s contraceptive and sterilization mandate went into effect for most employers. Congress is preparing to consider “must-pass” appropriations legislation. Needed conscience protection provisions should be made a part of this legislation. Today please urge your Representative and two Senators to take action to protect conscience rights and religious liberty!

Recommended Actions:

  • Send an e-mail through NCHLA’s Grassroots Action Center: Click Here
  • Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices. Additional contact info can be found on Members’ web sites at: www.senate.gov andwww.house.gov.

Suggested Message: “Please support legislation to protect the rights of conscience in health care when you take up ‘must-pass’ bills such as a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government. Government must not force Americans to violate their religious and moral beliefs on respect for life when they provide health care or sponsor or purchase health coverage. The Administration’s contraceptive mandate forces health coverage to include sterilization and contraceptives, including drugs that can cause an abortion, even when employers and employees have moral or religious objections.”

When: Congress may consider “must-pass” appropriations legislation such as a Continuing Resolution as early as the week of March 4. Please contact your Representative and two Senators today!

Background

In a February 15 letter to Congress, Archbishop William Lori, Chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, described specific conscience protection provisions and why they are needed, concluding: “I urge you in the strongest terms possible to incorporate the provisions described above in the upcoming legislative proposals to fund the federal government.” See:nchla.org/datasource/idocuments/LoriLttr021513.pdf.

Under the new health care law, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requires most health plans to cover “preventive services for women,” including services that many citizens find objectionable for moral and religious reasons. These objectionable services include sterilization, FDA-approved birth control (such as the IUD, Depo-Provera, ‘morning-after’ pills, and the abortion-inducing drug Ella), and “education and counseling” to promote these to all “women of reproductive capacity,” including minor girls. The HHS mandate allows only a very narrow exemption for a “religious employer.”

On February 1, HHS released a new “proposed rule” that goes into greater detail on the “accommodation” but continues to allow only a very narrow exemption, chiefly aimed at what it calls “houses of worship.” Other religious organizations offering education, health care and charitable services to all in need do not qualify for the exemption. There is no exemption or delay for individuals, or for businesses owned and operated by individuals with moral or religious objections.

Obama Files Brief Asking Court to Overturn Proposition 8

Think back ten months ago to when President Obama announced that his position on gay marriage had “evolved.”

What his position had in fact evolved from was his prior position when he promised the American people that he was against gay marriage. That was in 2008 when he was working to get elected president. Ten months ago, he announced that his thinking had evolved past his earlier promise and he was now in favor of gay marriage.

At that distant, and now forgotten time of ten long months ago, he promised the American people that his newly-evolved support for gay marriage was just his “personal opinion” and that it would have no effect on the actual laws concerning marriage. After all, the laws in question were not federal laws, and as President of the United States he had no power to or intention of trying to influence state legislatures.

That, as they say, was then. This is now. And right now it appears that our president has every intention of using the force of his office in whatever way he can to push gay marriage on the country. The fiscal cliff/sequester fight may have robbed him of the economic wherewithal to use his powers as Commander in Chief to send aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf, but evidently there is still plenty of money to buy ink for his office printers.

Yesterday, the president filed yet another of his briefs suggesting to the Supreme Court how they should rule on the question of gay marriage. In this particular brief, he asked them to overturn a vote of the people in California. I realize that President Obama is not one to care about things like consistency in his actions, but I still think it’s interesting that a man whose power of office comes entirely from a vote of the people would be so flip about overturning other votes of the people.

The people spoke in California. But evidently, the president’s opinion on votes of the people is evolving right along with just about everything else he tells us he believes. So far as I can tell, the only promises this president can be trusted to keep are the ones he made to Planned Parenthood and the abortion on demand crowd. For them, he will do anything.

You can find the full text of the brief here.

A New Yorker article describing the brief says in part:

Thursday night, just hours before a filing deadline, President Obama’s Justice Department submitted an amicus curiae brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8—California’s gay-marriage ban. Even more importantly, it did so by asserting a bold claim to full equality for gay and lesbian Americans, which is a significant development in the nation’s rapidly moving consideration of the issue.

The brief—which President Obama, according to a report on SCOTUSblog, personally helped craft—did not directly ask the Supreme Court to declare marriage equality a constitutional right. Even so, its legal reasoning points squarely in that direction. If the Court accepts the full weight and reasoning of the President’s arguments, any state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage would fail the test of constitutionality. Twenty-nine states, in addition to California, have such amendments now.

Theodore Boutrous, one of the lead attorneys in the small group of legal heavyweights representing the Proposition 8 plaintiffs (a team including David Boies and Ted Olson), said on a conference call for reporters which was quickly arranged after the brief was filed, that they were “extremely pleased” that the government had taken a strong stand for marriage. He added, with respect to other anti-gay marriage bans, “I don’t see any way these laws could survive” under the legal test urged by the Justice Department in its brief.

It would have been close to impossible to imagine these developments less than a year ago.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/03/socarides-on-prop-8.html#ixzz2MJ1WdW7a

And in Other News … While the Pope was Resigning, the Washington Squirrels were Chattering

I abandoned my fellow politicians for a few days and focused my heart and mind on the historic departure of Pope Benedict XVI. 

I didn’t have time to watch the events unfold on tv, but I did manage to catch a few news clips on the internet. When I saw the Holy Father, hobbling to the helicopter as he left the Vatican, and then hobbling away from it at Castle Gandolfo, it touched my soul.

 

Returning from that to the news out of Washington where the dissolution of our government spins along

on lies, egos and a jaw-dropping lack of concern for the welfare of this country and its people was a little like stepping out of a warm bed straight into a blizzard. What a painful return to the garbage the people we’ve entrusted with our government are spitting out.

So much madness has happened and is happening while I was pope watching that I’m going to summarize the most ugly stories to bring us up to speed. Here, for your consternation is what is going on in our nation’s capitol.

1. Sequester. They’re now calling the old “Fiscal Cliff” the “Sequester.”

Fancy name change, same old … I’m grasping for a word to describe it that isn’t vulgar or profane … same old irresponsibility. From the comments people usually make on this blog, I expect everyone to line up behind their team and blame the other guy. Not me. My days of pavlovian partisanship are long past. I’m for the USA, and I’m pretty well convinced that the R and the D are only for the R and the D.

Today, or tonight rather, we are set to go over another fiscal cliff by means of what they are now calling a sequester. What that refers to without the gloss of obscure verbiage is that a round of budget cuts will go into effect in a mindless and punishing fashion which will hurt you and me and our country. This will happen because the overgrown children in Washington care more about pushing one another around than doing the jobs we elected them to do.

I am well aware that commenters on this blog will say “What could my guys do but throw pies in the face of the other guys?” Just remember folks, those pies they are throwing are your jobs, your house payment, your future. We need to reduce the deficit, sure, but not by just taking a pair of scissors to the things that matter the most in an attempt to scare the other side into bending our way. That’s not deficit reduction, that’s playing chicken with our futures to prove who’s the manliest man in Washington DC.

2. Bob Woodward, President Obama and the utterly biased, nutso Obama press.

Bob Woodward called President Obama out for what was an obvious … searching again for a word that is not vulgar or profane … piece of political gamesmanship at the expense of the nation.

It seems President Obama went over the top in his attempts to rally the American people behind his team in the on-going Fiscal Cliff … er … Sequester games by announcing that the aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman couldn’t leave for the Persian Gulf as scheduled because, well, because the “Sequester” meant we didn’t have the money to send them.

Bob Woodward, who is not exactly a right wing stalwart, violated the Obama press rules by actually disagreeing with the President, calling his actions “a kind of madness.” In a country where the press lines up behind “their” team in these partisan battles with the same pavlovian mindlessness that our elected officials do, Bob Woodward’s comments were nothing short of lemming treason. Puppet politicians pay a price when they cut their strings, as do members of the puppet press.

I’ll bet Bob Woodward is eating lunch all by himself these days.

There you have it. The DC boys are still behaving like boys playing soldier behind their cardboard box forts in mama’s living room. The trouble for us is that it’s not mama’s living room; it’s our nation’s capitol, and those aren’t cardboard boxes; they’re the future of our country.

How sad for all of us.

Sede vacante: the See of Rome is Vacant

… and New Advent has a “Papal Buzzmeter” on their site, which is designed to educate, amuse and keep us informed of what’s happening with the upcoming Papal Conclave and the election of a new pope. Check it out here.

 

 

Cardinal Wuerl: Papal Conclave is Time of Silence and Prayer

Cardinal Wuerl describes a Papal Conclave as a time of prayer and silence; like a “very, very strong, very heavy retreat.”

He says that the cardinals will be focused on the aggressive secularism that is tearing at the faith all around the world, as well as other challenges. He asks for prayers from all of us, which I personally have already begun.

Our next pope will be tasked with leading us through times of great challenge. I am excited to learn who the Holy Spirit will send us.

The National Catholic Register article describing Cardinal Wuerl’s comments says in part:

The archbishop of Washington asks the Church to pray and ask God to send the Holy Spirit on the cardinals during the conclave.

by ESTEFANIA AGUIRRE/CNA/EWTN NEWS 02/28/2013 Comment

– CNA/Estefania Aguirre

ROME — Attending a conclave is similar to going on a rigorous spiritual retreat that is pervaded by silence, according to Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.
“It’s like going on a very, very strong, heavy retreat,” explained Cardinal Wuerl in an interview at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
“It’s heavy in the sense of leaving aside everything else, but this time the retreat master is the Holy Spirit,” he said.
He believes that while the conclave is focused on the actual voting, it is also a time of prayer and being open to the Holy Spirit. “I will be. And I’m sure it will be the same for all of the cardinals there, taking this time of quiet simply to open our hearts to that voice of the Spirit.”
Cardinal Wuerl assisted a sick cardinal at the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict..Since he was made a cardinal in 2010, this will be his first conclave as an elector.
“There’s a silence that pervades the entire conclave, particularly in the Sistine Chapel,” he said.
“I think that sustaining the serenity of spirit is why the whole idea of the conclave is quietness.”
According to the cardinal, the next Pope will have two major challenges: fighting secularism and being media savvy.
“Great secularism is pervading the Church and prevailing all around us, so it brings a sense of urgency that we need to be re-proposing the Gospel,” the cardinal said.
“He will need to be able to reach out through all the means of communication today, especially social communication to be present all over the world,” he added.
Cardinal Wuerl said that while a pope cannot be physically present worldwide, he can use social media as a way to be present electronically.
He added that the most important thing for people to do now is to pray and ask God to send the Holy Spirit on the cardinals during the conclave.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/cardinal-wuerl-describes-spiritual-experience-of-conclave?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-02-28%2014:31:01#ixzz2MDGliHNW

Interesting Times: Pope Benedict and the Church He is Handing Forward

“May you live in interesting times.”

That saying is reputed by some sources to be an ancient Chinese curse. Other sources claim it is an ancient Hebrew curse. It appears no one knows for sure exactly where it came from. On the other hand, no one seems to deny the underlying truth of it; that historic, or “interesting” times are often tumultuous and unpleasant for the people who must live through them.

Just as no one wants to have a really good medical malpractice suit, no one wants to live their precious life in the dislocation, misery and often dangerous times historians tend to find “interesting.”

We are fortunate because we are living through a truly historic event and no one will suffer or die because of it. Pope Benedict’s resignation takes effect today, and we are temporarily without a spiritual father to guide and govern our great Church. But, interesting as it is, this transit through a historic time is a moment of rejoicing and hope, rather than grief and tumult as we anticipate an orderly transition from one pope to his successor.

We trust that the Church will continue its consistent fealty to the Gospels in the face of whatever attacks opposing forces throw against it. We know that the sacrament of confession is there for us if we sin, the sacrament of the Eucharist will be available to give us strength for our daily journey on all the altars of all the Catholic churches of the world, and that we will have someone to marry us, bury us and, if need be, listen to and console us as we make our pilgrimage through this life to the next.

Pope Benedict XVI made the decision to resign his office and “climb the mountain” of living out the rest of his days as the Pope Emeritus. He has told us he will not go back to a private life of clubbiness and being one of the guys. He will, instead, continue his papal ministry without the administrative burdens of being a head of state and the administrator of this worldwide Church.

I take comfort in the knowledge that he will be upholding us all in his prayers. What a prayer warrior he will be for us and for the Church. I am glad to think that he will be able to rest without the strain and worry of managing this Church, which is a worldwide institution of over a billion people. Pole to pole, dateline to dateline; wherever you go on this Earth, I am convinced that you will find three things: MacDonald’s hamburgers, diet Coke, and the Catholic Church.

If that sounds like less than exalted company, consider that both diet Coke and MacDonald’s deal with the universal human need of food, and the Church provides for that other universal human need of eternal salvation. MacDonald’s feeds the body (albeit not too well) and the Church feeds the soul, and it does that very well, indeed.

President Obama, who is often referred to as the most powerful man on earth, governs a nation of roughly 300 million people. The pope, on the other hand, governs a Church of 1.2 billion.

The pope speaks with the only unified Christian voice in the world today. The Catholic Church is increasingly being forced to stand alone in its support for holy matrimony between one man and one woman, sexual chastity, the sanctity of human life, and the hope of eternal life for all people, everywhere.

The moral and prophetic voice of the Catholic Church is the single best hope this world has of surviving its own dissolution.

Pope Benedict XVI decided that his age had brought him to the pass where he needed to hand the responsibility for this great Church forward to his successor. Christians everywhere owe him a debt of gratitude for the suffering servitude he gave to us and to Our Lord these past 8 years. He is handing forward a Church that has not flinched from the responsibility to be the light, shining in the darkness.

Now that he goes to his new charge of praying and working for the Church and all of us until the end of his earthly days, the best thing we can do is join our prayers to his. We may not be the seasoned prayer warrior that he is, but we are God’s own children.

Let us join Pope Benedict in his prayers for the Church and the world.

At the very least,  we can pray as he taught us in his last audience;

“I adore you, my God and I love you with all my heart. Thank you for having created me, for having made me Christian…”

 

Benedict Pledges ‘Unconditional Reverence and Obedience’ to His Successor


Pope Benedict met with the cardinals of the Church who are assembled in Rome for his last day this morning.

He told them that “among you is the future pope, whom I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience.”

According to a rather snarky New York Times article below, the Holy Father made this statement to allay “concern among Vatican watchers” that he would do otherwise. I don’t know for sure, but my guess is that the “Vatican watchers” who expressed this “concern” is the New York Times and other media of their general outlook. I don’t think anyone else shared this “concern.”

In this same article, the New York Times, which has had a few scandals of its own, characterized Pope Benedict’s reign as pope as “scandal ridden.”

In spite of the negativity in the article, Pope Benedict’s grace, humility and utter devotion to Christ and His Church shine through. You can not report about this man’s last days in office and use even the most rudimentary facts of his actions or quote the smallest bit of his words without that happening.

Perhaps that’s what it means for all of us to be the light of the world that shines in the darkness.

The New York Times article I’m talking about says in part:

VATICAN CITY — In his final hours as head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI met on Thursday with the cardinals who will elect his successor, urging them to be “like an orchestra” that harmonizes for the good of the church and pledging that he would behave with “unconditional reverence and obedience” toward his successor.

It was one of the concluding acts of a nearly eight-year, scandal-dogged papacy that, Benedict said on Wednesday, was filled with “light and joy” but also had its darker moments when “the Lord seemed to be sleeping.”

A day after blessing the faithful for the last time as pope, Benedict will leave the Vatican by helicopter on Thursday for the papal summer residence and his retirement will formally take effect at 8 p.m., when he will become the “pope emeritus.”

After thanking the more than 100 cardinals collectively from a gilded throne in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, the pope rose and greeted each of them individually.

Draped in a red and gold mantle lined with snow-white ermine, Benedict clasped the cardinals’ hands as they removed their distinctive red skullcaps to greet him and kiss his ring.

Benedict told them, “I will be close to you in prayer” as they meet in coming days to choose his successor from their ranks.

“Among you is also the future pope, whom I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience,” Benedict told the cardinals, reflecting the concern among Vatican watchers about what it will mean to have two popes residing in the Vatican.(Read the rest here.)

For more bizarro coverage from the Catholic bashing wing of the media, check out Mark Shea’s post It Turns Out Andrew Sullivan is a Catholic Blogger.

Pope Plans Low-Key Departure

According to news reports, Pope Benedict will slip out of the Vatican quietly when he leaves for his retirement. There will be no public ceremony, only a few private good-byes and a short helicopter ride to his temporary residence.

An Indian Express article describing the pope’s departure plans says in part:

Pope Benedict XVI slips quietly from the world stage on Thursday after a private last goodbye to his cardinals and a short flight to a country palace to enter the final phase of his life “hidden from the world”.
In keeping with his shy and modest ways, there will be no public ceremony to mark the first papal resignation in six centuries and no solemn declaration ending his nearly eight-year reign at the head of the world’s largest church.
His last public appearance will be a short greeting to residents and well-wishers at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence south of Rome, in the late afternoon after his 15-minute helicopter hop from the Vatican.
When the resignation becomes official at 8 pm Rome time (1900 GMT), Benedict will be relaxing inside the 17th century palace. Swiss Guards on duty at the main gate to indicate the Pope’s presence within will simply quit their posts and return to Rome to await their next pontiff. (Read the rest here.)

The Media’s Take on Pope’s Last Audience: Pope Issues Gloomy Final Message

I began my day by reading the Holy Father’s beautiful words that he gave to us during his last public audience. I was moved, touched and inspired all at once. He spoke eloquently of what the Christian life truly is; a life of service, peace and joy in the face of life’s transitions.

Then, I turned to checking out the other headlines of the day by clicking on one of the major media web sites. I don’t want to give them any help, even from my itty bitty blog, by linking to them. You can take my word for this or not.

How did they headline the Holy Father’s good-bye?

The headline was: Pope Issues Gloomy Final Message.

Is that bias, or stupidity? What do you think?

Para el joven de 85 años – For a young man of 85

I just had to share this. It is beautiful and true.

Enjoy.

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