Tag Archives: Catholic

BRIEF: Wrightsville Beach priest to receive statewide service award

Father Joe Vetter, a longtime North Carolina Council of Churches board member and current pastor at St. Therese Catholic Church in Wrightsville Beach, will receive the Council’s Distinguished Service Award during  the 2012 Critical Issues Seminar on April 19 in Winston-Salem.

“Joe Vetter has been an important leader within the NC Council of Churches for decades,” said Council Executive Director George Reed in a press release. “He has served as an articulate ambassador for the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, an influential liaison between the Council and Bishops Joe Gossman and Michael Burbidge, a strong voice for dialogue and understanding among Catholics and Protestants, a keen observer of the religious landscape in North Carolina, and an effective advocate for peace and justice and for the common good.”

The Distinguished Service Award honors those whose work reflects their commitment to social justice and ecumenism.

A Greensboro native, Vetter has served parishes in Cary, Siler City, Raleigh and Southport and has been a campus minister at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. He was editor of “The North Carolina Catholic” newspaper, and has served the Diocese as Director of Family Life, Director of Communications, Vicar for Priests, Vicar for Religious and Chancellor/Moderator of the Curia. He serves on the Board of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation.

The award presentation is during the seminar, Eating Well: For Ourselves, for Our Neighbors, for Our Planet, which will explore food as a faith and social justice issue. Topics include the economics of hunger in the midst of plenty, food and water insecurity and peace, buying local, food and spirituality, issues of climate change and personal health.

– Amanda Greene

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Meet Fran Salone-Pelletier, our spiritual purpose writer

I’d like to introduce Fran Salone-Pelletier, our spiritual purpose writer.

The Shallotte resident is married to Jean Pelletier, has four adult children and four grandchildren. She is a passionate writer on faith subjects, writing books and a regular column for the Brunswick Beacon. Recently, she wrote an autobiography of the life and work of Gary and Meredith Krupp, co-founders of Pave the Way Foundation in New York City.

Salone-Pelletier also enjoys directing or attending spiritual retreats and assisting in adult religious education in her parish.

“I believe my call is to serve the community, especially through the proclamation of God’s word,” she said. She calls herself “a roaming Catholic and non-retired retiree.” And true to her statement, she is involved in local ecumenical efforts as a chaplain at Brunswick/Novant Medical Center.

In 2011, she was the first Catholic to be awarded the Robert Trentham Homilist Award at the International Conference of Community Churches. And she was awarded the 2011 Governor’s Award for Volunteerism in North Carolina.

Welcome, Fran!

Obama exempts religious groups from contraception mandate

President Obama will exempt religious organizations from providing free contraception services to employees, but will require that all insurance companies do so. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

By DAVID GIBSON
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) Facing growing furor from religious groups, President Obama on Friday unveiled an “accommodation” in which health insurance companies, rather than religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals and universities, will provide employees with contraception coverage.

Houses of worship remain exempt, and the new approach effectively removes all faith-based organizations from involvement in providing contraceptive coverage or even telling employees how to find such coverage. It also maintains Obama’s pledge to ensure that almost all women with health insurance will not have to pay for it.

“Every woman should be in control of the decisions that affect her own health. Period,” Obama said in a midday appearance at the White House.

“Now, as we move to implement this rule, however, we’ve been mindful that there’s another principle at stake here — and that’s the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution. As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right.“

At issue was a mandate, part of Obama’s 2009 health-care overhaul, that employers provide free birth-control coverage. The mandate was

Official portrait of United States Health and ...

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Image via Wikipedia

announced Jan. 20 by Health & Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Religious groups, particularly Catholic, fiercely objected, saying the federal government should not force institutions to violate the tenets of their faith. Womens’ advocates argued that employees should have access to birth control regardless of where they work.

Initial indications were that the White House may have found a solution on Friday to an argument that once seemed destined to dog the president throughout an election year. The high-profile fight risked alienating both women and Catholic voters – both key demographics in his bid for reelection.

The Obama administration has rebuffed pressure from religious and nonprofit groups to lift a mandate to provide contraceptives coverage to all employees. RNS photo via istockphoto.com.

Under the new plan, a religiously-affiliated institution would provide health insurance to employees that does not include contraception. The insurance company would then directly contact employees and offer contraception or contraception coverage without cost and without raising the premiums that the religious institution pays.

Sister Carol Keehan, head the Catholic Health Association, an umbrella group for more than 600 Catholic hospitals, said Friday she is “very pleased” with Obama’s compromise, which she said “protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions.”

Keehan was a key supporter of the president’s health care reform law — going against the wishes of the U.S. Catholic bishops — but she had voiced strong criticism of the initial contraception regulations. Keehan was joined by a range of progressive Catholic groups and leaders in praising the new rules. Many of them had been upset with the administration’s initial decision on the mandate.

Friday’s decision was also welcomed by Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood, who had been working hard with Democrats to keep the administration from providing any relief from the mandate to religious institutions.

“We believe the compliance mechanism does not compromise a woman’s ability to access these critical birth control benefits,” Richards said.

The furor over the contraception mandate appeared to catch the White House off guard since Sebelius announced the final regulations without broadening the exemption for religious groups, as had been widely expected.

The administration struggled to frame the regulations as a way to ensure that women with health insurance would receive free birth control – a position that is broadly popular among Americans, and especially women.

But religious leaders, chiefly the Catholic bishops and conservative evangelicals, were successful in casting the issue as one of religious freedom, not birth control.

These conservatives were also backed by numerous Catholic liberals and other supporters of the administration who felt that Obama had “thrown them under the bus,” as some put it, by not granting the broader religious exemption. In recent days it became clear that the administration had to do something, and quickly, and the solution announced Friday seemed to win back many of his allies.

“The unity of Catholic organizations in addressing this concern was a sign of its importance,” said Keehan.

But whether that unity will extend to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was unclear. Obama reportedly telephoned New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, Friday morning to tell him about the new proposal. Dolan was consulting throughout the day with other top bishops to gauge their reaction.

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski told CNN he thought Obama is “just kicking the can down the road.”

“He’s hasn’t really addressed our concerns,” Wenski said. “I think the only thing to do is…to take back the whole thing.” In recent days, as they sensed the political tide turning in their favor, several USCCB officials have indicated they wanted to go for more than just a broader exemption and wanted the entire contraception mandate — covering women wherever they work — reversed.

That tack may have less appeal in light of the White House’s new plan.

But that may not stop Catholic conservatives from keeping up the pressure on Obama.

William Donohue, head the Catholic League, called the new policy a “ploy” and said Catholics “will only be impelled to revolt.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins called the proposal “paperwork gimmicks.”

“This revised HHS mandate does nothing to change the fundamentally anti-religious, anti-conscience and anti-life contraceptive mandate,” he said.

On the other side, some abortion rights supporters were still unhappy.

“This administration has shown that it will not stand with women when it comes to supporting access to, and easing the availability of, reproductive healthcare services,” said Jon O’Brien, head of Catholics for Choice. “One wonders what has been gained by this ‘accommodation.’ It certainly isn’t the support of Catholics.”

Catholic school officially ends paddling

By BRUCE NOLAN
c. 2012 Religion News Service

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) A Catholic high school that was the country’s last refuge of corporal punishment has ended a legal struggle over control of the school and agreed that the days of paddling are over.

“There will be no attempt to reinstate corporal punishment,” said Dan Davillier, a board member of St. Augustine High School who helped fashion the out-of-court settlement on Dec. 23 with the Josephites, the Roman Catholic order that founded the school 60 years ago.

“It hasn’t been at the school for the last year and a half. We want St. Aug to maintain its track record for strict discipline. I’m confident that we can maintain that high level without paddling.”

Whether to paddle or not — and who would decide the question — became the issue that roiled the school for most of 2011. The Josephites, with the emphatic support of New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, wanted it stopped.

But a broad coalition of parents, alumni and local board members, led by former school president Rev. John Raphael, wanted it continued as a key ingredient in the school’s character-building tool kit.

But for Aymond and the Josephites, the issue touched on the school’s identity as a place of Catholic values.

Weeks of public rallies and petitions culminated in late June when the local directors unilaterally attempted a legal takeover of the board of trustees. The Josephites responded with the lawsuit that ended with the new leadership structure.

Under the agreement, neither the board of directors nor the trustees can amend the school’s bylaws or articles of incorporation without the assent of two-thirds of both bodies, said Davillier and the Rev. Tom Frank, the Josephites’ No. 3 official.

“This insures much better communication and spirit of cooperation” between the two bodies, Davillier said.

The next step will be finding a new president for the school, after Raphael was recalled to Josephite headquarters in Baltimore during the dispute.

Davillier said the board of directors will conduct a search and recommend a replacement, who will be approved by the trustees.

(Bruce Nolan writes for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.)