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Top stories selected throughout each day from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- U.S. senators must reject any bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act unless such a measure "protects poor and vulnerable people, including immigrants, safeguards the unborn and supports conscience rights," said the chairman of the U.S. bishops' domestic...

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- U.S. senators must reject any bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act unless such a measure "protects poor and vulnerable people, including immigrants, safeguards the unborn and supports conscience rights," said the chairman of the U.S. bishops' domestic policy committee.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the Senate to fix problems with the ACA in a more narrow way, rather than repeal it without an adequate replacement.

"Both the American Health Care Act legislation from the U.S. House of Representatives and the Better Care Reconciliation Act from the Senate were seriously flawed, and would have harmed those most in need in unacceptable ways," Bishop Dewane said.

The House passed its bill to repeal and replace the ACA health care law May 4 with a close vote of 217 to 213. The Senate's version collapsed July 17 after four Republican senators said they couldn't support it, leaving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, short of the 50 votes needed to bring the bill to the floor for a debate.

"In the face of difficulties passing these proposals, the appropriate response is not to create greater uncertainty, especially for those who can bear it least, by repealing the ACA without a replacement," he said.

Bishop Dewane made the comments in a June 20 letter to U.S. senators released July 21.

President Donald Trump had lunch with the GOP senators at the White House July 19 in an effort to get them to commit to moving forward a repeal and replace measure. A new Senate draft of a bill was released July 20, and McConnell is expected to hold a vote to begin debate July 25.

Bishop Dewane referred back to a Jan. 18 letter in which the U.S. bishops "encouraged Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to protect vulnerable Americans and preserve important gains in health care coverage and access."

That letter reiterated principles he said the bishops laid out when the ACA was being debated in early 2010. "All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage of life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born," the bishops said at the time. "The bishops' conference believes health care should be truly universal and it should be genuinely affordable."

"Before any legislation had been proposed, the bishops were clear" in their Jan. 18 letter to lawmakers, Bishop Dewane said, "that a repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act ought not be undertaken without the concurrent passage of a replacement plan that ensures access to adequate health care for the millions of people who now rely upon it for their well-being.

"To end coverage for those who struggle every day without an adequate alternative in place would be devastating," he said. "Nothing has changed this analysis."

At the same time, "reform is still needed to address the ACA's moral deficiencies and challenges with long-term sustainability," Bishop Dewane said.

"Problems with the ACA can be fixed with more narrow reforms, and in a bipartisan way," he said, "Congress can extend full Hyde Amendment protections to the ACA, enact laws that protect the conscience rights of all stakeholders in health care, protect religious freedom, and pass legislation that begins to remove current and impending barriers to access and affordability, particularly for those most in need."

In an analysis issued late July 20, the Congressional Budget office said the new version would still increase the current number of uninsured Americans by 22 million by 2026. In 2016, 28 million people were uninsured last year; in 2010, just over 48 million were uninsured in 2010, the year the ACA was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

It would reduce average premiums in the ACA exchanges by 25 percent in 2026, end the individual and employer mandates, and rescind the Medicaid expansion under the current law. Taxes on investment income and payroll taxes affecting higher-income Americans would remain.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: July 21, 2017, 11:00 am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chair of the migration committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the Trump administration to "ensure permanent protection" for youth who were brought to the U.S. as minors without legal documentation.

Bishop Jo...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chair of the migration committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the Trump administration to "ensure permanent protection" for youth who were brought to the U.S. as minors without legal documentation.

Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the Committee on Migration Committee, reiterated the bishops' support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a 2012 policy under then-President Barack Obama that, while not providing legal status, gives recipients a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization in the United States as long as they meet certain criteria.

During his campaign for president, Donald Trump said he would get rid of the program but later backtracked and it's unclear what will happen to the estimated 750,000 youth who signed up for the program.

"DACA youth are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes," said Bishop Vasquez in a July 18 statement. "These young people entered the U.S. as children and know America as their only home. The dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected."

He urged the administration "to continue administering the DACA program and to publicly ensure that DACA youth are not priorities for deportation."

The bishops join other Catholic institutions worried about the group and urging protection. In May, more than 65 college presidents representing U.S. Catholic institutions asked for a meeting with the Secretary of Homeland Security to talk about immigration policy, particularly DACA, saying they worried about the future of their students. They cited incidents in which DACA recipients have been placed under immigration detention, including a case in which one of them was deported.

"Many of these students will leave our campuses for internships, summer programs and jobs. Our prayer is that they return," their letter said, but so far there have been no announcements of what the administration will or won't do regarding the program.

In his statement, Bishop Vasquez said that since DACA is not a permanent solution, "I also call on Congress to work in an expeditious and bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for DACA youth as soon as possible."

Some members of Congress had been working on a bipartisan bill to provide relief for "Dreamers," as the DACA recipients are known, but the McClatchy news agency reported July 19 that White House officials said the president would not support the legislative action.

The administration already is facing pressure from some groups for not rescinding DACA, as it had promised. In late June, officials from nine states joined Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in urging the Trump administration to end DACA, threatening the government with a lawsuit on Sept. 5 if the program continues.

Trump has said at least on a couple of occasions that the decision is more difficult than he first imagined and recently said he's still weighing what to do about it.

The country's Catholic bishops will continue efforts to find a humane and permanent resolution "that protects DACA youth," Bishop Vasquez wrote.

"Additionally, I note the moral urgency for comprehensive immigration reform that is just and compassionate. The bishops will advocate for these reforms as we truly believe they will advance the common good," he said.

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Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Posted: July 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Armin Weigel, EPA

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- More than 500 boys suffered abuse at the hands of dozens of teachers and priests at the school that trains the prestigious boys choir of the Regensburg Cathedral in Germany, said an independent investigator.

Former students of...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Armin Weigel, EPA

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- More than 500 boys suffered abuse at the hands of dozens of teachers and priests at the school that trains the prestigious boys choir of the Regensburg Cathedral in Germany, said an independent investigator.

Former students of the Domspatzen choir reported that the physical, emotional and even sexual abuse at the school made life there like "a prison, hell and a concentration camp," said Ulrich Weber, the lawyer leading the investigation of claims of abuse at the choir and two associated boarding schools.

A "culture of silence" among church leaders and members allowed such abuse to continue for decades, Weber said as he presented the final report on his findings during a news conference in Regensburg July 18.

The investigation, commissioned by the Diocese of Regensburg, found that at least 547 former members of the Regensburg Domspatzen boys choir in Germany were subjected to some form of abuse, according to Vatican Radio. Of those victims, 67 students were victims of sexual violence, the radio said.

But Weber told the Regensburg news conference that many former victims had declined to come forward during his two-year inquiries into the Domspatzen, adding that he believed the real number could be closer to 700.

Regensburg church sources said around 300 financial compensation claims had been received from abuse victims, adding that 450,000 euros (US$518,000) had been paid out by the diocese so far.

The 440-page report, which spanned the years between 1945 and the early 1990s, found highly plausible accusations against 49 members of the church of inflicting the abuse, with nine of them accused of being sexual abusive. The Diocese of Regensburg and the Domspatzen choir supplied links to the report and related news stories or resources on their respective web sites: www.bistum-regensburg.de and www.domspatzen.de.

In the report, Weber sharply criticized Cardinal Gerhard Muller, who was bishop of Regensburg from 2002 until 2012, when Pope Benedict appointed him to head the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Then-Bishop Muller had "a clear responsibility" in the "strategic, organizational and communication weaknesses" that marked the process he launched of reviewing allegations. Cardinal Muller had ordered the creation of a commission to investigate and search through diocesan archives in the wake of the 2010 abuse crisis.

But in an interview with TV2000, the satellite television station owned by the Italian bishops' conference, Cardinal Muller denied he had not done enough as bishop of Regensburg.

"I launched the process of investigation" when abuse claims increasingly emerged in 2010, he said in the interview, which aired July 20.

Time, resources and assistance were dedicated to "offering justice to victims," he said, and he personally set up a team of experts and appealed to victims to come forward.

"Those responsible for abuse are relatively few and a number of them are dead," he said, adding that "unfortunately we can't put dead people on trial, but whatever could be done, juridically and pastorally, the diocese did, just as it does today."

He said the elementary school where the choir boys studied was "institutionally independent from the diocese" and that, at the time, it was also very reserved, "very closed, nobody could go in."

"Perhaps there were rumors, but they never reached the diocese," the cardinal said.

One of the first Domspatzen student-victims to come forward in 2010 with allegations of sexual abuse, Alexander Probst, told Deutsche Welle July 18 that he had been very frustrated and angry with the way then-Bishop Muller reacted to his claims. He said the bishop accused him of denouncing the church.

In the interview, whose link could be found on the Regensburg boys' choir website, Probst said he felt the bishop actively protected abusers, and that "it got even worse when he was appointed head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; it was like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse."

"It was only after the new bishop of Regensburg, Rudolf Voderholzer, realized that there was much more to all this than met the eye when things began to get better. Starting in 2015, he personally wanted to cooperate with us," Probst said.

Widespread news of the suspected abuse first emerged in 2010 as religious orders and bishops' conferences in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands were faced with a flood new allegations of the sexual abuse of children, mainly at Catholic schools.

The boys' choir had been led between 1964 and 1994 by Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of retired Pope Benedict XVI.

In an interview with the German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse in 2010, Msgr. Ratzinger apologized to victims at his former school, even though he said he had been unaware of the alleged incidents.

"There was never any talk of sexual abuse problems, and I had no idea that molestation was taking place," the priest said, as he recalled his 30 years as the school's choirmaster.

Msgr. Ratzinger had said when he served at the school, "there was a climate of discipline and rigor ... but also of human understanding, almost like a family." He knew that the priest who headed the school from 1953 until his death in 1992 had slapped boys in the face, but said he had not considered such punishments "particularly brutal."

"If I'd known the exaggerated vehemence with which the director acted, I would have reacted," he said in the 2010 interview.

In his report, Weber said Msgr. Ratzinger should have known about at least some cases of physical violence, but that his role "was still not at all clear."

Msgr. Michael Fuchs, diocesan vicar general, described Msgr. Ratzinger as a "passionate musician, priest and pedagogue" and an "emotional person," who had personally regretted slapping pupils during his 30 years as the school's choirmaster and apologized to Domspatzen victims.

"I have no information to suggest his account, expressed many times, needs to be revised," Msgr. Fuchs told the news conference.

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told Vatican Radio the new report shows how Bishop Voderholzer "has taken seriously all the allegations" and is "very courageous in taking on an issue that has been looming for many years."

It is only now that the facts have become "plain, in the light of day" because of establishing and cooperating with a professional, independent investigation, he said.

This latest report should inspire church leaders around the world, Father Zollner said, "so that they do the same today because this will help, first of all, those who have been harmed in the past."

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Contributing to this story was Jonathan Luxmoore.

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.


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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Posted: July 20, 2017, 4:37 pm
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