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Students represent the Archdiocese of Hartford at the March for Life today on the National Mall.

8202773256 5d16c585fa mA statue of Blessed Junipero Serra at the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Bob Mullen/The Catholic Photographer)

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM MANILA, Philippines (CNS) – Pope Francis said his September trip to the U.S. will take him to Philadelphia, New York and Washington – where he intends to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra – but probably no other stops.

sledesky 053 webA man photographs Father Stephen Sledesky, pastor of St. Bridget Parish in Manchester, and friends during reception in priest's honor Jan. 11.

MANCHESTER – Hundreds gathered at St. Bridget Parish on Jan. 11 to honor Father Stephen Sledesky, who was recognized as this year’s Archdiocesan Distinguished Elementary School Pastor. The award is presented annually to a pastor who exemplifies leadership, dedication and commitment to Catholic school education.

20150118cnsbr7984 webAn aerial view shows pilgrims gathering to hear a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Rizal Park in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 18. The view shows only a portion of the Mass site. (CNS photo/Philippine Air Force/Handout via Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Pope Francis told a crowd of an estimated 6 million gathered in a Manila park to protect the family "against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture."

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FARMINGTON – The campaign for the 2015 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal got off to a rousing start with a reception and dinner for past donors at Farmington Gardens Jan. 9. Archbishop Leonard P. Blair spoke on the theme of this year’s appeal, “Living the Joy of the Gospel.”

st fran spirit award winners 2015 webFrom left, Mark and Barbara Lentini, Daniel O'Connell and Christopher M. Dadlez

HARTFORD – Archbishop Emeritus Henry J. Mansell and the late David A. Lentini were recipients of the St. Francis Spirit Award during the annual luncheon meeting of St. Francis Care, parent company of St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, at the Connecticut Convention Center Jan. 7.

soccer web(Photo provided by Knights of Columbus/l'Osservatore Romano)

Wilfrid Macena and other members of a Haitian amputee soccer team present Pope Francis with a soccer jersey on Jan. 12, commemorating the fifth anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson stands to Mr. Macena’s left.

20150112cnsbr7611 webA Swiss Guard keeps watch as Pope Francis speaks during an audience with the Vatican diplomatic corps Jan. 12. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri pool via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Highlighting some of the most urgent conflicts facing the world, Pope Francis said such strife and injustices were rooted in a culture of rejection that refuses to recognize God, to protect nature and to respect other human beings.

In a wide-ranging speech Jan. 12 to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, the pope urged the world's governments and individuals to work "to end every form of fighting, hatred and violence, and to pursue reconciliation, peace and the defense of the transcendent dignity of the human person."

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Archbishop Leonard P. Blair and Father John P. Gatzak record a session of “Archbishop’s Corner” at the chancery in Hartford for airing radio station WJMJ 88.9 FM. (Photo by Jack Sheedy)

HARTFORD – Bishops, priests and deacons often preach from a pulpit, high above the heads of their listening congregations. It’s part of their job – their ministry – but, for Archbishop Leonard P. Blair at least, it’s not enough.

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mariehilliard_tn Christ's healing ministry directs the Christian's concern for the sick, particularly the vulnerable, and those who have little or no voice in decisions pertaining to their health care.

Cognizant that all of human-kind are created in the image of God, the human family must share in the healing ministry manifested by Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church, as the largest provider of nongovernmental health care and social services in this country, has responded to this Gospel imperative.

However, government has continually intruded in the exercise of this ministry through mandates that impact the free exercise of religion of those involved in this delivery of health care. Such intrusions have escalated, threatening the well-being of the most vulnerable, most recently by some of the provisions contained in the federal Health Care Reform proposal.

The issue is not whether all persons deserve access to affordable health care; the issue is who will decide, particularly for vulnerable populations, what health care is mandated, received, and publicly funded.

Intense negotiations to produce health care reform legislation have been taking place in Congress, most recently in the Senate Finance Committee and in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. With the August congressional recess upon us, constituents have the opportunity to express their concerns to their members of Congress before a final vote occurs in the fall.

The message to Congress is: "Please support amendments that exclude abortion mandates, prevent federal funding of abortion, uphold state laws that regulate abortion, protect the conscience rights of health care providers, and protect the elderly, the infirm, and persons with disabilities from rationing as well as mandates impacting their end-of-life care." For more information see: http://nchla.org/issues.asp?ID=51.

Abortion Mandate, Funding, Violations of Conscience:

Federal law has long excluded most abortions from federal employees' health benefits plans and places no requirement on private plans.

This could radically change. Current provisions stipulate that there is at least one plan in every region of the country that covers abortion. While public monies will not pay directly for abortion, health plans would receive federal subsidies to help pay enrollment premiums for low-income people, for plans that will cover abortion

Furthermore, provisions such as those requiring timely access to all benefits covered by qualified health plans could be used by courts to override state laws regulating abortion. Thus, it should be clear in the legislation that these state laws will not be preempted.

Also, federal laws protective of conscience rights of health care providers will be in jeopardy, particularly with this requirement of regional access to abortion. The conscience rights of parents regarding vaccination requirements could be impacted. There even are provisions for "increasing intervals between pregnancies" of those enrolled (See Sections 1711-1714). Congress should ensure that this legislation will maintain protections for conscience rights.

Rationing and Mandatory End-of-Life Care:

The proposal creates a government committee determining allowable benefits and treatments, and restricts enrollment in this plan of persons with special needs. The latter is an attempt to interface with health plans for those with special needs included under the Social Security Act, the outcome of which remains unclear. Hospitals will be penalized for government-deemed preventable readmissions. This constitutes rationing of care.

Eligible health care plans will be required to offer Medicare recipients the opportunity to engage in advanced care planning consultations every five years, or more often if there is a change in health status. This could result in actionable medical orders to exclude life-affirming and proportionately beneficial care, within an unforeseeable circumstance. Such orders will remain actionable across continuums of care and across all health care settings. Reasonable medical interventions, including certain medications, could be excluded from the plan of care. Persons could inadvertently agree to dehydrate or starve to death, when reasonable use of assisted nutrition and hydration would be beneficial. With the aforementioned rationing, decisions concerning end-of-life care could be taken away from patients and their families. (See Sections 122, 123, 203, 1151, 1176, 1177, 1233, 1751.)

Marie T. Hilliard, Ph.D., J.C.L., R.N., is director of bioethical and public policy for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. Published courtesy of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (www.ncbcenter.org/details_news.asp?idOfEvent=442)

Events Calendar

January 2015
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07:00 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
"Finding the Sacred in Everyday Life," a two-part program, will be presented by Lisa Velazquez, certified [...]
Date :  January 19, 2015
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09:00 AM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford
Archbishop Leonard P. Blair will celebrate the annual Rally for Life Mass at 9 a.m. Jan. 24 at the [...]
09:00 AM
Doubletree by Hilton, Bristol, Bristol, United States
Magnificat for women will meet for breakfast from 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 24 at the Doubletree by Hilton in Bristol. Registration begins at [...]
Date :  January 24, 2015
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12:00 PM
St. Mary School, Newington, Michigan City, United States
Saint Mary School in Newington will host several open houses next week for families interested in the [...]
Date :  January 25, 2015
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02:00 PM
Spiritual Renewal Center, Norwich, Norwich, United States
A Mass of Healing will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Spiritual Renewal Center in Norwich. It is [...]
05:15 PM
Albertus Magnus College, New Haven, New Haven, United States
Dr. Denys Turner will speak on “A Teacher and Two Students: Albert, Thomas Aquinas and Meister Eckhart” on from 5:15-6:30 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Hubert Campus Center on the New Haven campus [...]
07:00 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
"Finding the Sacred in Everyday Life," a two-part program, will be presented by Lisa Velazquez, certified [...]
12:00 AM
Knights of Columbus Museum, New Haven, New Haven, United States
The Knights of Columbus Museum’s 10th annual Christmas crèche exhibition, “Buon Natale: Crèches of Italy,” opened Dec. 1 and remains on view until Feb. 1 with [...]
Date :  January 26, 2015
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01:00 PM
St. Mary School, Newington, Michigan City, United States
Saint Mary School in Newington will host several open houses next week for families interested in the [...]
Date :  January 29, 2015
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06:30 PM
My Father's House, Moodus, East Haddam, United States
MOODUS – Healing and a spaghetti supper will be combined at 6:30 p.m. Jan 30 at My Father’s House at [...]
Date :  January 30, 2015
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01:30 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, United States
Caritas Christi Center's ongoing centering prayer program will continue from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at the [...]
09:00 AM
My Father's House, Moodus, East Haddam, United States
MOODUS – Matthew Arnold, speaker, author, producer and host of the radio program “Shield of Faith” on Radio Maria, will present a program titled [...]
Date :  January 31, 2015

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