Posts tagged with: National Catholic Register

Dr. Kent Brantly

Dr. Kent Brantly

I once read a fascinating book about the leper colony on Molokai. The Molokai lepers were literally cast out of society, sent as far away as possible, with almost no support systems.  There was no health care for them, no houses beyond rudimentary shelter, no way to readily obtain clothing, school books for children…it was a frightful and frightening situation. A brave and gentle priest, Fr. Damien de Veuster from Belgium, accepted the assignment to go to Molokai and serve the 600 lepers there.

He arrived to chaos. Those suffering from leprosy were living in a lawless society. They fought over food, areas of land – it was survival of the fittest. In the 16 years that Damien lived on Molokai, he built a church, helped the people build houses that truly were homes, constructed needed buildings and roadways in the mountainous region, taught farming to the residents, and provided education. His greatest gift, however, was spiritual. (more…)

Me tshirtIn the U.S., about half of adults live alone. Somewhere around 43 percent of kids in America are only children. In the past 50 years, the number of children living with only one parent has almost doubled. We are, in the words of Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, living in a “de-familied” society.

Just prior to the current Pontifical Council for the Family, Archishop Paglia (who heads that Council) spoke to the National Catholic Register about issues he hoped would be addressed by the bishops at the council. The archbishop spoke of a major shift in our society’s manner of thinking, calling it a “delirium of omnipotence:”

Indeed it as is, today, homo homini Deus (Man is God for man). Now, this is the fundamental knot. Why? Because from this tearing apart and arbitrary rebuilding we are going towards a society “de-familied” and therefore weaker and less solid. [The theologian Richard] Baumann would say liquid. In this context, the one who wins is not “us,” but “I.”

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immigration pledgeIn a commentary for the National Catholic Register, Acton’s Director of Research Sam Gregg considers the topic of immigration, specifically the current U.S. border crisis. Gregg views the border crisis through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching, which he says gives us a principled and thoughtful (as opposed to emotional) framework.

We also have a rich tradition of teaching about political questions that embodies principles based upon the Gospel and the natural law: principles that lay Catholics have the primary responsibility, as Vatican II underscored, to apply to complex subjects such as immigration.

Catholic teaching on immigration contains many exhortations to be merciful. Indeed, the commandment to love our neighbor often means we’re required to go beyond the strict demands of justice, albeit not in ways that violate justice. At the same time, the Church articulates a framework for thinking — rather than merely emoting — through the immigration issue in a manner consistent with Catholic concerns for liberty, justice, human flourishing and the common good. And part of this involves affirming that there is a right — albeit not an unlimited right — to migrate.

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John Kennedy, CEO of Autocam

John Kennedy, CEO of Autocam

In today’s National Catholic Register, reporter Joan Frawley Desmond talks to John Kennedy, a Grand Rapids-based business owner of Autocam, a company that makes both precision auto parts and medical supplies. Kennedy (who is a board member of the Acton Institute) speaks candidly about his faith, his company’s future and the HHS mandate battle.

The Obama administration has sought to dismiss the merits of HHS lawsuits filed by business owners like Kennedy, arguing that free exercise and statutory religious-freedom protections only apply to individuals, not “corporations.”

While Kennedy and other HHS for-profit plaintiffs have gone to court to obtain a reprieve, Planned Parenthood has framed their legal fight as an effort to stop a threat to women’s reproductive rights. “The bosses want to deny your birth-control coverage,” announced one story on the Planned Parenthood’s website that has sparked editorials and commentary echoing its claim.

But Kennedy contends that his faith is integral to Autocam’s corporate culture and that the country actually needs more business leaders inspired by strong ethical and moral values and guided by Catholic social teaching that affirms the fundamental dignity and rights of every worker.

“I went into this with some trepidation, knowing how it was going to be painted,” he acknowledged.

“But I am more convinced now that we have absolutely done the right thing by standing up for religious freedom.”

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Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, a professor at Yeshiva College in New York, says religious liberty does not mean we need to water down our beliefs in order to get along. Rather, he says that people of different faiths must learn to live as both “stranger and friend“:

The rabbi explained that “America is the first country in a long time founded around an idea,” and that religious freedom “is the philosophical lynchpin of what lies at the heart of American ideals.”

This theory is evident throughout American history, he said.

To illustrate his point, Rabbi Soloveichik recounted the story of Jonas Phillips, a Jewish merchant living in the early United States. He explained that shortly after the formation of the country, Jews wishing to serve in the Pennsylvania legislature were required to swear an oath upon a Christian Bible, a blasphemous act for the Jewish people.

[Jonas] Phillips [a Jewish merchant], who had fought in the Revolutionary War alongside other Jews and Christians, found that this requirement was in opposition to the founding principles of the country, Soloveichik explained. The merchant sent a letter to George Washington protesting this practice and affirming that “all religious societies are on an equal footing.”

The rabbi maintains that a just society “will accept these differences and respect a person’s freedom to abide by his or her religious beliefs, treating the individual ‘as equal, without sacrificing religious faith’ for social uniformity.”Read “Religious Differences Compatible With Freedom, Jewish Leader Says” at National Catholic Register.

Frank Hanna III, CEO of Hanna Capital, LLC, has made Catholic education a special focus. In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Hanna spoke of the challenges, changes and reasons to champion religious education:

The more I looked into the issues of society, the more I became convinced that a lot of our societal failings happen much sooner; so much of the foundation of our failure was happening in our educational system. And that’s what actually got me thinking about education. I was thinking, “If you are going to do your own part in turning the world around, education is the place to start.”

I started to examine it in the secular world, and the more I began to study education, the more I became convinced that the very process of educating a child is inherently a religious undertaking.

Hanna goes on to say that parochial schools are in need of financial renewal, and spoke of the role of parish subsidies:

I think it is worth exploring whether parents should receive the subsidy from the parish or the diocese, rather than the school. In other words, parents who are tithing or who are parish members would receive something of a voucher that they can use at any Catholic school, thereby putting more control into the hands of the parents. Rather than subsidizing schools, we would instead be giving financial help to those parents who need it, and reconsidering whether parents who actually don’t need financial help should still be paying tuition that is subsidized. This is one example of the kind of financial modeling that we might reform.

Read “The State of Catholic Education” in the National Catholic Register.

In 2011, the Obama administration cut off funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that was used to fight human trafficking. The USCCB lost funding for its refusal to provide abortions, sterilizations and artificial birth control in their anti-trafficking programs, as these services are all immoral, according to Catholic teaching.

Now, the bishops have re-grouped, and are launching a new initiative in the fight against human trafficking.

The USCCB’s new educational campaign, The Amistad Movement, rolls out this year. Lummert [Nathalie Lummert, special-programs director at the USCCB’s Office of Migrant and Refugee Service] explained the program reaches directly into at-risk urban and rural communities, where traffickers seek to blend their victims into the immigrant population. The program trains community leaders to identify victims, help rescue them and muster the support and resources they need.

“They will be empowered to identify trafficking in their community, rather than someone from the outside trying to identify it,” Lummert said.

Nearly 17,000 men, women and children are trafficked from overseas each year, according to the USCCB Anti-Trafficking Program.

Lummert goes on to say that now that the government is not funding programs like this, the bishops have greater flexibility in what they are able to offer. “We’re able to leverage more resources,” Lummert said. “When you have a variety of private sources and private donors, you are really free to do what the Church wants to do.”

The National Catholic Register and Associated Press are reporting that Justice Sonia Sotomayor has denied Hobby Lobby (and a related company, Mardel, Inc.) its request to opt out of the HHS mandate to provide abortifacients as health care to employees. Justice Sotomayor’s decision stated that Hobby Lobby did not meet the legal standard for preventing them from complying with the government mandate. However, David Green, CEO and owner of Hobby Lobby disagrees, saying the lawsuit violates his family’s faith.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby as well as a number of other organizations and groups that have filed lawsuits against the contraceptive mandate, said in a Dec. 20 press release that “the Green family’s religious convictions prohibit them from providing or paying for the abortion-inducing drugs, the ‘morning-after’ and ‘week-after’ pills, which would violate their most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception.”

Said the Becket Fund, “The business’s lawsuit acts to preserve its right to carry out its mission free from government coercion.”

If the ruling stands, the decision will cost Hobby Lobby approximately $1.3 million in fines daily. The company currently employs about 18,000 people, operating over 500 stores in 41 states.

Religious groups and businesses who, by weight of conscience, are choosing not to participate in the HHS mandate requiring them to provide abortifacients, artificial birth control, sterilization procedures and abortions as part of “health” care coverage, are now faced with massive fines from the government. The fines for non-compliance are $100 per day per employee. For some companies, that means millions in fines.

Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel for The Becket Fund, says

…the mandate places a “significant burden” on religious organizations’ ability to plan, budget and hire.

“Most organizations are already trying to get their insurance plans, for example, in the next year in place,” he said.

The lawyer noted that there is a “great deal of anxiety” because employers are subject to lawsuits from individuals who are not receiving required benefits under their health plans.

“That anxiety is only increasing as the implementation date approaches,” he said.

While some organizations have been given a reprieve from the mandate, there remains a strong sense of confusion among many as to whether or not they will be forced to comply, based on whether they are primarily “religious” or not. For instance, Tyndale House recently won a court case against having to participate in the HHS Mandate, but Hobby Lobby, a retail chain, faced a legal setback in its stance that the mandate violates the owners’ religious convictions.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver recently told EWTN that

The First Amendment is a promise that no one should have to choose between a public life and their religious integrity. Without the consent of our elected officials, the mandate can change in troubling ways. This kind of unchecked discrimination is dangerous.
Read more on the latest HHS news at the National Catholic Register’s “Becket Fund: Anxieties Mounting over Contraception Mandate.”

Kyle Duncan, general counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, gives us a glimpse of what is ahead in the fight for religious liberty regarding the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate, given the outcome of Tuesday’s election.  In the National Catholic Register, Duncan outlines that current federal lawsuits fall into two broad categories: those filed by nonprofit organizations and those filed by business owners. In the case of the nonprofits,

The federal government has not responded to the merits of these lawsuits, but has instead sought to have them thrown out as premature. The government says that its non-binding promise of an “accommodation” by August 2013 means that the courts should not hear the lawsuits now — even though the mandate is a final rule that is now harming these plaintiffs’ ability to plan, hire and budget.

Unfortunately, in two of the cases (Belmont Abbey and Wheaton), the courts have agreed with the government and dismissed the lawsuits. Those dismissals will be reviewed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in December.

The cases filed by business owners such as John Kennedy of Autocam and David Green of Hobby Lobby have met with “some success”, the article states, but the fight is far from done.
Because these business lawsuits are not subject to any delays, the government has had to respond on the merits. Its response is startling.The government has flatly stated that a person who goes into business to make a profit loses any right to exercise religion in his business pursuits. A kosher butcher, for instance, would presumably have no religious rights associated with his decision to stock only kosher products. A Bible seller would have no religious rights associated with the sacred texts she is selling.

The profit motive alone dissolves these individuals’ rights to exercise religion. The government apparently wants to enforce its own theology of how God and mammon should mix. But its interpretation would bar individuals from providing for their families in ways consistent with their religious beliefs.