WASHINGTON (CNS) – The American Health Care Act that passed by a four-vote margin May 4 in the House has “major defects,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Social Development. “It is deeply disappointing that the voices of those who will be most severely impacted were not heeded,” Bishop Dewane said in a May 4 statement. “The AHCA does offer critical life protections, and our health care system desperately needs these safeguards. But still, vulnerable people must not be left in poor and worsening circumstances as Congress attempts to fix the current and impending problems with the Affordable Care Act.” He added, “When the Senate takes up the AHCA, it must act decisively to remove the harmful proposals from the bill that will affect low-income people – including immigrants – as well as add vital conscience protections, or begin reform efforts anew. Our health care policy must honor all human life and dignity from conception to natural death, as well as defend the sincerely held moral and religious beliefs of those who have any role in the health care system.” One of 20 Republicans to vote against the bill was Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Many religious leaders viewed President Donald Trump’s executive order on religious freedom, which he signed in a White House Rose Garden ceremony May 4, as a step in the right direction. In a ceremony for the National Day of Prayer prior to signing the executive order, Trump told the assembled religious leaders: “We’re taking big steps to protect religious liberty” and he assured them the government “won’t stand for religious discrimination.” Three religious leaders, including Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, offered prayers during the ceremony. Just prior to the event, Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, met with Trump about the order. In an interview with Catholic News Service at Reagan National Airport just after the White House ceremony, Cardinal DiNardo said the meeting with the president was brief but productive. Earlier, in a statement, the cardinal said the executive order “begins the process of alleviating the serious burden of the HHS mandate,” referring to the mandate issued by the federal Department of Health and Human Services requiring most religious employers to provide coverage of artificial birth control for their employees even if they morally oppose it.
WASHINGTON (CNS) – After Arkansas executed its fourth death-row inmate in eight days April 27, Sister Helen Prejean, a longtime opponent of capital punishment, said “future generations will look back upon the events unfolding in Arkansas tonight with horror. The barbarity is overwhelming.” Sister Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, tweeted that message 30 minutes after Kenneth Williams was pronounced dead. His lawyers unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, saying the inmate should not be executed because three health care professionals had determined he was “intellectually disabled.” Relatives of a man killed by Williams in a crash during his 1999 escape from prison also pleaded with the governor to call off his execution. “There is nothing pro-life about the state-sanctioned killing of an intellectually disabled man,” was just one of the many messages Sister Prejean tweeted during Williams’ final hours. Catholic Mobilizing Network in Washington, an advocacy group seeking to end the death penalty, similarly sent Twitter updates the night of the execution and each of the eight days when other inmates were executed, including two executions April 24. Governor Asa Hutchinson ordered the executions to use a controversial drug before it would expire May 1. The state will no longer be able to get supplies of the drug, which was used in several executions in which the condemned seemed to suffer before he died.
The social media messages urged people to pray for those facing execution, their families, the victim’s families and even the prison guards.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz joined the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and hundreds of faith leaders in Arkansas in publicly deouncing the executions. Bishop Kopacz’ statement is available on the diocesean website,
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – To best respond to new challenges in the field of communication, the Vatican needs smart, courageous teamwork, not nostalgia for a glorious past or doomsday forecasts, Pope Francis said. As the Vatican continues to integrate and coordinate its numerous media outlets under the Secretariat for Communication as part of a wider process of reform, the pope said “we must not be afraid of this word,” reform. Reform is not brushing a bit of fresh paint on things, but “reform is giving another form to things, organizing them in another way,” he said May 4 in a speech to the secretariat’s members, directors and officials, who were holding their first plenary assembly since the pope instituted the body in 2015. Reform, the pope added, must be done “with intelligence, meekness, but also, also, allow me (to use) the word, with a bit of ‘violence,’ but kind, good violence, in order to reform things,” he said in off-the-cuff remarks. “Let’s not allow the temptation of clinging to a glorious past to prevail. Instead, let us make great team players in order to better respond to the new challenges in communications that today’s culture demands of us without fear and without imagining apocalyptic scenarios.”