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06 Oct 2014 Vatican No comments

Be frank, humble – Pope Francis tells bishops at synod launch

Vatican City, Oct 6, 2014 / 07:45 am .- During the opening session for the extraordinary synod on the family, Pope Francis told participants not to be afraid of…

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06 Nov 2014 Q&A Comments (1)

Is hunting for sport OK?

Full Question I know that we are not to treat animals cruelly and that we are allowed to kill an animal in self-defense, but is it okay to hunt animals for…

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19 Oct 2015 Articles Comments (1)

Patron Saints and how they are Chosen?

The History of Patron Saints The practice of adopting patron saints goes back to the building of the first public churches in the Roman Empire, most of which w…

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04 Mar 2016 Australia News Vatican Comments (1)

Australia's most senior Catholic Cardinal Pell says resigning would be an admission of guilt

Cardinal George Pell, one of the highest-ranking officials at the Vatican, acknowledged his fault in the manner he handled the cases of the sexual abuse of mino…

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15 Aug 2016 Q&A No comments

If you sell a blessed item, is it no longer blessed?

Full Question I once heard that you can sell a blessed item, but if you do, it is no longer blessed. Is this true? Answer A blessed item may be sol…

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02 Oct 2015 Europe News No comments

Irish playwright Brian Friel, former seminarian, dies aged 86

One of Ireland's greatest playwrights, Friel was educated at Maynooth The Irish playwright Brian Friel, a former seminarian, died this morning aged 86. Br…

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14 Jun 2016 News No comments

Orthodox scholars urge leaders to go ahead with council

The scholars said the council is 'an opportunity to commence a new phase of Orthodox witness' 50 Orthodox scholars have signed an open letter to Orthodox leade…

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24 Oct 2015 Middle East News Comments (1)

ISIS declares that no Jew will be left alive (See Details)

The ISIS terrorist sect have declared in a recent released video threatening all Jew. The message was read in Israeli-Arabic language, below is thecontent of th…

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31 Dec 2015 Q&A Comments (2)

Was I wrong to take the host back to my pew?

Full Question I sit in the first row at Mass because I am hearing-impaired. When visiting a church recently, the usher gestured for me to go up for Communi…

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Controversial HHS mandate accommodation now finalized

In its latest update to the federal contraception mandate, the Obama administration on Friday finalized a set of proposed rules which the U.S. bishops have previously said still violate religious freedom.

A statement released Friday by Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia M. Burwell said that the measures balance the government’s goal of providing free contraceptives to women with “respecting religious beliefs” of employers who object to them.

The HHS mandate was first issued in 2012 as part of the Affordable Care Act, requiring employers to offer employee health plans that included free sterilization and contraception, including some drugs that can cause early abortions.

Many religious non-profits and business owners objected to the mandate on the grounds that it forced them to cooperate in practices they believe to be morally wrong. More than 300 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate; the majority of cases have been granted preliminary injunctions protecting them against it.

Last summer, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and other “closely-held” for-profit employers who objected to the mandate.

Responding to the lawsuits and widespread criticism, the Obama administration has released a series of modifications to the mandate. Earlier revisions instructed religious organizations to authorize third-party insurers and administrators to provide the coverage which they found objectionable. Many groups said this still forced them to violate their beliefs by requiring them to authorize the provision of things they found immoral.

The latest “accommodation” allows religious non-profits who object to the mandate to send a written notice of their objection directly to the Department of Health and Human Services, who in turn will inform the insurers and third-party administrators of the objection. Separate payments will then be made to the enrollees for the coverage at “no additional cost” to the employer.

In response to the Supreme Court ruling that Hobby Lobby and similar companies could not be forced to comply with the mandate, the Department of Health and Human Services also announced Friday that closely-held for-profit businesses would still be subject to the mandate, but under the same “accommodation” as religious non-profits.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposed this new accommodation when it was proposed in 2014, saying it still requires religious organizations to facilitate activity that violates their religious beliefs.

“(T)he mandate continues to substantially burden the religious liberty of stakeholders with religious objections to the mandated coverage,” said Anthony Picarello and Michael Moses, general counsel and associate general counsel for the U.S. bishops’ conference.

The “accommodation” still violates religious liberty because it requires religious non-profits and closely-held for-profit businesses to give the government “all it needs” to provide the morally-objectionable procedures and drugs,” they said in comments last October.

“Because it does not further a compelling government interest by the means least restrictive of religious exercise, the mandate continues to violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” the bishops argued in Oct. 8 comments to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Criticism has also been raised about the tier-system used to apply religious exemptions for the mandate. Houses of worship and their affiliated organizations are completely exempt from its requirements, while religious non-profits fall under the accommodation, and for-profit companies that do not meet the legal standards of being “closely-held” are not offered any protection at all. Critics argue that this creates “classes” of religious freedom, rather than applying First Amendment protections equally among all parties.


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