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A summary of Bishop Cordileone's upcoming schedule
THE DIOCESE placeholder There are no items for the diocese in this issue
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U.S. BISHOPS placeholder What you need to know about the HHS mandate

Conscience protection must be law
THE VATICAN placeholder News briefs from the Vatican
placeholder  February 21, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA

Feb. 22: 12:10 p.m. Ash Wednesday Mass, Cathedral

Feb. 23: Mass, Chancery Day of Recollection, Orinda

Feb. 24: Bishops and Vocation Directors meeting, St. Patrick Seminary

Feb. 25: 9 a.m. Mass, Confraternity of Eucharistic Devotion, Cathedral

Feb. 26: 10 a.m. Stational Mass, Cathedral

      (Afternoon) Young Ladies' Institute luncheon, Cathedral Center

      (Evening) Rites of Election I and II, Cathedral

March 1: (Morning) Bishop's Administrative Council, Chancery

      (Evening) Oakland Police Foundation Board

March 2: (Evening) Clergy Prayer and Dialogue

March 4: 10 a.m. Stational Mass, Cathedral

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There are no items for the diocese in this issue

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There are no items for the Cathedral of Christ the Light in this issue

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What you need to know about the HHS mandate

1. The Obama Administration via the Department of Health and Human Services mandated last fall that all health care plans offer zero co-pay coverage for contraception and sterilization, practices that violate Church beliefs. The regulation's very narrow religious exception creates a new definition of religious employer that would include Catholic charities, schools, universities and hospitals.

Learn more

• See Bishop Cordileone's column

• People of the Diocese are encouraged to register their concerns about this infringement on religious freedom with Congress and President Obama. There are links at www.oakdiocese.org with forms that can be used to contact Congress and the White House.

• Additional information: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/index.cfm
2. The mandate forced institutions, against their conscience, to pay for things they consider immoral. Under the mandate, the government forces religious insurers to write policies that violate their beliefs; forces religious employers and schools to sponsor and subsidize coverage that violates their beliefs; and forces religious employees and students to purchase coverage that violates their beliefs.

3. The mandate forces coverage of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices as well as contraception, including drugs that can induce abortion, such as "Ella," a close cousin of the abortion pill RU-486. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Jan. 20 that religious organizations could delay until 2013 but not opt out of the requirement that all health plans cover contraceptives and sterilization free of charge.

4. Other religious and secular leaders and groups recognized this as an assault on the broader principle of religious liberty, even if they disagree with the Church on the underlying moral question. For example, Protestant Christian, Orthodox Christian and Orthodox Jewish groups — all of whom allow contraception — issued statements against the HHS's decision. 5. The administration mandate fueled weeks of intense criticism. On Feb. 10, President Obama announced a revision that allows religious employers not to offer such services to their employees but would compel insurance companies to do so.

6. Obama's proposed revision of the contraceptive mandate left intact the restrictive definition of a religious entity and would shift the costs of contraceptives from the policyholders to the insurers, thus failing to ensure that Catholic individuals and institutions would not have to pay for services that they consider immoral, Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York said Feb. 13. Now questions have been raised over how that revision will pertain to self-insured parties, like many dioceses and Catholic organizations, and whether it could still force entities morally opposed to contraception to pay for such services.

7. Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski said Feb. 10 that hundreds of Catholic universities, colleges, hospitals and other entities offered comments to HHS before the mandate was announced but they "were given short shrift by the administration. The administration continues to insist that the issue is about contraception; we disagree. It is about the first freedom of our Bill of Rights: the freedom of religion and respect for the rights of conscience," he added.

8. The rule that created the uproar has not changed at all, but was finalized as is, states the USCCB. After a day of touting meaningful changes in the mandate (Feb. 10), HHS issued a regulation finalizing the rule first issued in August 2011, "without change." The rule leaves open the possibility that even exempt "religious employers" will be forced to cover sterilization.

9. The HHS mandate is almost identical to a decade-old California law — the Women's Contraception Equity Act. Catholics banded together to challenge WCEA, but in 2004 the state Supreme Court in Catholic Charities of Sacramento vs. Superior Court of the State of California, ruled against the Church, saying if an employer provides prescription drugs, it must cover contraception. It has a similar narrow religious exemption, but does cover institutions like Catholic Charities, which the court said was simply a nonprofit, not a religious organization. The California case in essence says an entity cannot use the First Amendment to avoid complying with legally enacted statutes. — Compiled from the California Catholic Conference and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Conscience protection must be law

WASHINGTON - Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chairman of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said the ongoing debate over a federal mandate requiring employers, including most religious entities, to provide no-cost contraception and sterilization coverage demonstrates the need that a religious right to conscience protection be enacted into federal law.

"Our religious freedom is too precious to be protected only by regulations," Bishop Lori said Feb. 13. "It needs legislative protection."

"More legislators, I think, are looking at it. There's more bipartisan support for it. There should be a lot of pressure exerted on Congress to pass it and for the president to sign it," he said. Among the bills under consideration is the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.

Bishop Lori also suggested that Obama administration officials would have better understood the concerns religious organizations have about the revision had they tried to talk with the Catholic bishops, evangelicals and Orthodox church leaders who objected to the mandate.

"That certainly did not happen," he said.

Such a meeting would have allowed the bishops "to bring it home that our ministries of charity, health care and education flow from what we believe and how we worship and how we are to live," Bishop Lori told CNS. "These are not side businesses that the church runs," he said. "They flow from our discipleship. Therefore I do not think the government should be intruding in these things."

Catholic News Service

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Not a snowman
A child looks at a "popeman" built by students from the Rome program of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., after snowfall in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 11. This was the second snowfall in a week in a city where snow is as rare as a papal conclave.
CNS photo/
Paul Haring

Abuse lawsuit withdrawn

VATICAN CITY — A high-profile federal lawsuit accusing Pope Benedict XVI of covering up sexual abuse has been withdrawn. Lawyers for the plaintiff in John Doe 16 v. Holy See filed a notice of voluntary dismissal Feb. 10, bringing the case effectively to an end. The lawsuit was filed in April 2010 in the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee by an unnamed Illinois man who claimed he had been molested by Father Lawrence Murphy during the latter's time on the staff of Milwaukee's St. John's School for the Deaf. The lawsuit claimed that the Vatican "has known about the widespread problem of childhood sexual abuse committed by its clergy for centuries, but has covered up that abuse and thereby perpetuated the abuse." The lawsuit also sought to prove that the Vatican is a global business empire, engaging in "commercial activity" in Wisconsin and across the United States, and holding "unqualified power" over each diocese, parish and follower. Jeffrey S. Lena, an American attorney for the Holy See, welcomed the withdrawal of "fallacious allegations of Holy See responsibility and liability for John Doe 16's abuse. A case like this one against the Holy See, which was held together by no more than a mendacious web of allegations of international conspiracy, amounted to a misuse of judicial process and a waste of judicial resources," Lena said in a statement. The plaintiff was represented by Minnesota attorney Jeff Anderson, who has filed thousands of abuse lawsuits against priests and representatives of the Catholic Church. Anderson is still pursuing a sex abuse lawsuit against the Holy See in Oregon. Another such case in Kentucky was withdrawn in 2010.

God never abandons people

VATICAN CITY — God is near even though it may seem like he does not hear people's prayers or has abandoned his flock, Pope Benedict XVI said. "Faced with difficult and painful situations, when God seems to not hear us, we must not be afraid to give him all of the weight we carry in our heart, we should not be afraid to cry out to him about our suffering," he said. Speaking at his weekly general audience Feb. 8, Pope Benedict continued his catechesis on prayer by highlighting Christ's prayer from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus' cry to the Father from the cross was not immediately understood by those nearby, the pope explained. Some thought he was calling Elijah, asking him to prolong his life, but Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, which affirms God's presence amid his people, the pope said. "Jesus is praying this psalm with the awareness of the Father's presence," he continued. "Many ask how this omnipotent God could not intervene to spare his own Son?" Because Jesus' cry is not one for help, he said, but rather a prayer for his people and all peoples. Pope Benedict said that while most people focus on Christ's passion from noon to 3 p.m., St. Mark writes that Christ's time on the cross began three hours earlier, at 9 a.m., when he was nailed to the cross.

Honduras wounded

VATICAN CITY — Poverty, violence, police corruption and disrespect for human life are mortally wounding Honduras, the country's cardinal told the nation's president and top government officials. Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa said the current violence in Honduras is the result of "the impact of narco-business subculture, unstoppable migration and of religious confusion, a result of the invasion of sects," according to a Feb. 6 report by Fides, the Vatican missionary news agency.

Lent is time to help

—In his Lenten message, Pope Benedict XVI called on the faithful to be concerned for one another and "not to remain isolated and indifferent" to the fate of others. Materialism and a sense of self-sufficiency are obstacles to a Christian life of charity, the pope said. Instead of looking first to God and then to the well-being of others, people often have an attitude of "indifference and disinterest born of selfishness and masked as a respect for 'privacy.'"

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