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Morning Briefing

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Dissidents occupy Catholic church in Cuba

Cuba's Catholic Church trying to fill gaps in social safety net?

MONTREAL — A class-action lawsuit accuses Quebec's Catholic Church of coercing adoptions by forcing unwed mothers to give up their children for adoption.

NY Archdiocese reorganizes Catholic schools, shifting the management of its network of schools from local parishes to regional boards.

Cleveland Catholic Diocese receives official decrees from Vatican on church appeals

Lent in a Philippines cemetery village

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MANILA, Philippines -- More than 300 flood victims who have moved temporarily into bunkhouses in an old cemetery in Cagayan de Oro City are giving others an opportunity to share of themselves during the Lenten season.

The people from 67 families came from two evacuation centers set up for residents whose houses were washed away or ruined by the flood unleashed by Typhoon Sendong (also known as Tropical Storm Washi) in December. More than 1,000 people were killed and about 1,000 more remain missing after Cagayan de Oro River swelled out of its banks on the evening of Dec. 16.

Bishops losing on birth control as religious liberty issue

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The Republican-friendly U.S. bishops and their conference staff seem to have lost control of their so-called religious freedom argument: The current conflict with the Obama administration over the HHS contraception mandate is being perceived as a birth control and anti-women story, according to a new Bloomberg national poll.

From Bloomberg News:

Americans overwhelmingly regard the debate over President Barack Obama’s policy on employer-provided contraceptive coverage as a matter of women’s health, not religious freedom, rejecting Republicans’ rationale for opposing the rule. More than three-quarters say the topic shouldn’t even be a part of the U.S. political debate.

More than six in 10 respondents to a Bloomberg National Poll -- including almost 70 percent of women -- say the issue involves health care and access to birth control, according to the survey taken March 8-11.

Trying to stop an execution

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After a social justice project at her church several years ago, a fellow Catholic writer I know began corresponding with a young man on Mississippi's Death Row.

My friend never considered whether Larry Matthew Puckett was guilty or not; she assumed he had sexually assaulted and murdered a 28-year-old woman in 1996, when he was just barely 18 years old, as the Department of Corrections website claimed.

A convert to Catholicism, Puckett impressed my friend with his intelligence and thoughtfulness. He liked to read science fiction books she sent, as well as the books of Jesuit prayers. He tried his hand at writing essays and got involved with some literary efforts from prison.

Now he is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. March 20.

And my friend--and others--are trying to stop the state from killing him.

ìDoonesburyî abortion comic not fit to print for some papers

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The decision to print a controversial comic strip lampooning a recent Texas abortion law has been no laughing matter for many newspaper editors.

Garry Trudeau, creator of the popular strip “Doonesbury,” offered a storyline this week revolving around a Texas law requiring physicians to provide a sonogram to a woman before performing an abortion. The law went into effect in early February.

Editors at multiple newspapers, including the Arizona Republic and the Indianapolis Star, decided not to run this week’s strips in their papers, electing instead to print a substitute “Doonesbury” provided by the syndicate. Some, like the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, chose to place the comic online but not in the paper.

Not all print editions are abstaining from the controversial strip, though. Some, like The Kansas City Star relocated “Doonesbury” to the Opinion page for the week.

U.S. bishops miss the real issues in this campaign

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The U.S. Catholic bishops are out in far right field these days. I guess that's not news, but here is the latest analysis of their public pronouncements .

They are still harping on the HHS mandate in the health care reform law, even though there are negotiations going on to solve any remaining problems. These are the issues remaining after President Barack Obama's compromise said religiously affiliated institutions, like Catholic hospitals and universities, do not have to purchase contraceptive coverage for their employees -- the insurance companies will pay for it. Questions of self-insurance and other matters are being discussed in order to work out the problems remaining.
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Meanwhile, the bishops, if they chose, could cool it with Obama and pivot to the central issue of the campaign. For the record, that is NOT contraception or some fictitious "war on religion."

Morning Briefing

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Election 2012: Alabama and Mississippi: Primary Day In the South. 119 delegates the prize in four primaries being held today in Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and American Samoa.

NY Catholic bishops lobby state lawmakers Monday to reject pending bills to codify abortion rights and open a window for victims of child sex abuse to sue for old incidents.

Church Puts Legal Pressure on Abuse Victims’ Group. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said leading bishops he knew had resolved to fight back more aggressively against the group: “The bishops have come together collectively. I can’t give you the names, but there’s a growing consensus on the part of the bishops that they had better toughen up and go out and buy some good lawyers to get tough."

Clemency is not a popular word

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Clemency is not a popular word. While candidates talk a lot about religion, I don't hear words like compassion, forgiveness and mercy.

The Missouri legislature has two clemency bills under consideration, HB 1175 and HB1067. These bills, both sponsored by Republicans, the super-majority party, would establish parole hearings for inmates who have long sentences, even life without parole. The Parole Board would hear their cases every three years and could recommend clemency to the governor.

This is not a very big deal. It gives men and women a hearing. It gives hope, for instance, to a 19-year-old, certified as an adult when he was 16, and sentenced to life plus 300 years. If the bill passed, he would know that when he turned 55 or 60, he would get a hearing. I have no idea what the boy did, but offering him a little hope would be a gift of clemency in its own right.

The bills are in limbo. One had a hearing in committee, but the committee chair wants tighter legal language and the sponsor doesn't want to make the changes. The other has not had a hearing and the sponsor is seeking support from the Speaker of the House. No word yet on whether that support is forthcoming.

Cardinal's death triggers speculation about new Filipino cardinals

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MANILA, Philippines -- Former Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Clergy Cardinal Jose Sanchez was laid to rest Monday morning near Manila after a funeral Mass presided by Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, Cebu's retired archbishop.

Sanchez, 91, died of multiple organ failure Friday at Cardinal Santos Memorial Medial Center, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said.

Pope Benedict XVI sent a message offering his condolences to Vidal and gratefully recalling "the late cardinal's dedicated service to the Lord as priest and bishop in his native country, as well as our service together in the Roman Curia during the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II."

Sanchez's death triggered hopes and speculation about the pope creating new cardinals for the Philippines.

While the country has two surviving cardinals, both Vidal, 81 and Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, 80, are beyond the 79-year-old voting age for a conclave, which elects the pope's successor.

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July 14-27, 2017

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