Canadian churches weigh in on U.S. health care reform

TORONTO (RNS) A Canadian group of churches has waded into the U.S. debate on health care reform, telling their American counterparts that health care is a “moral enterprise” with deep roots in the Bible. The letter, written by the Rev. Karen Hamilton, general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches, provides a history of Canadian churches’ advocacy for health coverage and explains the rationale for a universal health care system. While some denominational groups in the U.S. — including Methodists, Presbyterians, Reform Jews and the United Church of Christ — have endorsed a Democratic bill to expand Medicare to cover all Americans, conservative Christian groups warn that a revamped health care system would encourage end-of-life euthanasia and provide taxpayer-funded abortions. Hamilton sent the three-page letter to the New York-based National Council of Churches, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals. In the letter, Hamilton notes that before 1966, Canada’s health care system failed to provide medical insurance to more than 30 percent of the population.

Conservatives say health care system `is working’

WASHINGTON (RNS) Conservative Christian groups on Wednesday (Aug. 26) ramped up opposition to health care reform, saying the current system “has problems” but “it is working.” Members of the newly formed Freedom Federation, comprised of some of the largest conservative religious groups in the country, say they oppose taxpayer-supported abortion, rationed health care for the elderly and government control of personal health decisions. Mathew Staver, who heads the legal group Liberty Counsel and is dean at Liberty University’s law school, said the group agrees on certain core values. “We value the sanctity of life,” Staver said at a press conference.

Lionizing Ted

There is a phrase obituary writers use to describe the human tendency to “de mortuis nil nisi bonum,” or, speak no ill of the dead. They call it the posthumous parallax, and define it “as a bending of life histories toward all that is light and wholesome, away from anything that might reflect unfavorably on the dead.” What brings these thoughts to mind, of course, is the passing of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. For the past half-century, Kennedy and his clan have been lauded as liberal gladiators who fought on behalf of the last and the least. But they’ve also been denigrated as incorrigible rakes whose personal moral failings taint their accomplishments.

The Vatican remembers Ted Kennedy

Following the death of Eunice Kennedy Shriver two weeks ago, Pope Benedict sent her family a warm letter praising a “woman of ardent faith and generous public service” for “her many labors, particularly on behalf of those who are physically and mentally challenged.” Perhaps survivors of Shriver’s brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who died yesterday, will get their own letter of papal condolence in due course. But at least one Vatican voice has already expressed a strikingly cool reaction to the senator’s death. An obituary appearing in the international news section of tomorrow’s L’Osservatore Romano, more than a fifth of which is dedicated to the Chappaquiddick scandal, notes that Kennedy was “constantly on the front line in battles such as those for the protection of immigrants, arms control, a minimum wage for the less well-off. But unfortunately he also took positions in favor of abortion.”

News roundup: Supreme Court says church files must be open

From the Hartford Courant: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has denied a request by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport to keep court files on clergy sex abuse cases sealed until the high court decides whether to take up their case in the fall. More …

News roundup: Fla. students sent home over anti-Muslim shirts

From the Gainsville Sun: More children from the Dove World Outreach Center arrived Tuesday at area public schools with shirts bearing the message “Islam is of the Devil” and were sent home for violation of the school district’s dress code when they declined to change clothes or cover the anti-Muslim statement on their clothing. More …

News roundup: Minn. officials probe Iraq chaplain’s death

From the AP: MINNEAPOLIS – A patient at a Minnesota nursing home who fell and later died was neglected by two health care workers there, according to a report from state health officials in what appears to be an investigation into the death of a chaplain who had been injured in Iraq. More …

More liturgical turnarounds?

As our friend David Gibson reported last week, the Catholic bishop of Tulsa has announced that priests celebrating Mass in his cathedral must henceforth do so facing the altar in the pre-Vatican II style. Now a respected Italian journalist reports that the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship (where American Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia was recently named to the number-two spot) has proposed further traditionalist reforms, including an end to receiving Communion in the hand. A Vatican spokesman has denied any “institutional proposals” along these lines, but ever since Pope Benedict lifted restrictons on the Traditional Latin Mass two years ago, informed observers have been predicting a “reform of the reform” that produced the kind of worship most Catholics follow today.

10 minutes with Omarosa Manigault Stallworth

(UNDATED) Omarosa Manigault Stallworth found infamy as the sassy silver-tongued contestant on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice.” But the villainess of reality TV is channeling her softer side, moving from the boardroom to the pulpit. Manigault Stallworth, who’s often called simply “Omarosa,” enrolled at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, where she’s studying to become a minister in the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America. With a few minutes to spare between lectures, she discussed the challenge of balancing a notoriously nasty television persona with a personal calling to the ministry. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Love your enemies, civility advocates say

WASHINGTON — Mark DeMoss, to borrow a line from the U2 song, still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. The veteran Christian public relations executive couldn’t find it last year when he advised Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. It was missing again in the controversial battles over Proposition 8, the California measure that put an end to same-sex marriages last November. And he’s having a hard time finding it in the heat of the debates over health care reform. “Civility isn’t ruling the day,” said DeMoss, who represents leading evangelicals like evangelist Franklin Graham and Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson.

COMMENTARY: Learning from me, learning from them

(UNDATED) Back-to-school jitters aren’t only for the students. Every teacher gearing up for another term also wonders what the first day of classes will bring. Certainly, it will bring a lot of students. This year, U.S. colleges and universities will enroll about 17.5 million students — that’s nearly equal the population of Chile — and some will be in my History of Irish Spirituality course. They comprise every nationality and ethnic group you can imagine, all thrown into the college melting pot.

NYT calls it torture…almost

Here’s a bit of fancy prose out of the Times Washington bureau today:Waterboarding might be an excruciating procedure with deep roots in the history of torture, but for the C.I.A.’s Office of Medical Services, recordkeeping for each session of near-drowning was critical.What exactly is the semantic import of that first clause? Is it: “Waterboarding has been around for a long time, but the CIA wanted to keep records anyway”? Or perhaps: “Even though waterboarding is torture, the CIA figured it better keep records”? And what’s the difference between “torture” and “an excruciating procedure with deep roots in the history of torture”? An enhanced interrogation technique that, thanks to careful CIA monitoring, should no longer be considered torture?

Teddy Kennedy, RC

Will the pro-choice lion get the big funeral mass? My guess is yes. In Irish Catholic Boston, tribal politics trump abortion politics.Update: The funeral will take place at the 1,300-seat Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the Mission Hill section of Boston, reporteth the Boston Globe.