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February 3, 2013

Catholic Press Month

Bishop Timothy DohertyBy Bishop Timothy Doherty

February is Catholic Press Month. So I am writing to thank you for your continued personal and parish patronage. The Catholic Moment is important for the life of our local diocese at an interesting time in U.S. Church history. And even though “Catholic press” is a growing presence online, annual research shows that diocesan papers enjoy a significant readership.

Just so you know, this column also appears online. The Catholic Moment is having several of its features reconfigured to be “find-able” as well as to “push” content through RSS and social media applications.

For many years, the bishop publishers have reminded people that our own papers allow us to speak in our own voice. This means we can present Church belief without a filter. We can set our own priorities about what issues to cover. We can address our readership’s aspirations for holiness, solid catechesis, moral direction and correct information about the Church’s social teachings.  Our offices do receive suggestions to expand or clarify certain representations, and we take these seriously.

What our diocesan paper offers is an avenue to publicize the work of the local Church. It also makes us aware of social and governmental trends that affect us as individuals or institutions. Let me give a few examples of happenings that merit our thoughtful consideration.

The state of Indiana makes vouchers available to parents who want more choices about where to educate their children. You might already have read articles in statewide or local papers that have a limited perspective on the state’s intentions. While some Catholic parish schools have seen their enrollments grow a bit, the increased competition among schools and the internal costs to administer these changes have added unforeseen challenges.

The federal regulations surrounding Health and Human Services oversight of the Affordable Care Act affect Catholic institutions at numerous levels. Our Catholic press tells our own story about how the changes affect our institutional identity, our insurances for our employees, and how the state or federal exchanges will affect whether and how our hospitals and clinics will be compensated for the care they provide. A number of religious institutions, Catholic and not, and some commercial businesses have filed insurance-related lawsuits that seem headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. It is interesting how some news commentators portray the Church as imposing its doctrine, while lawyers representing religious groups are actually arguing constitutional law. There is a lot to learn both about religion and about how our government works. Both deserve truthful reporting.

We will be reading more about end- of-life care simply because the government has mandated better accountability for services being provided at life’s end. How patients will register their preferences, how patients and loved ones avoid things they do not want, will depend on legislated refinements and usable written forms. The Indiana legislature has been discussing forms governing life-sustaining treatments for patients in a terminal condition, and the Indiana Catholic Conference offers observations and suggestions.

In my opinion, the highest standard of excellent and moral end-of-life care depends on having our wishes known to an attentive health-care representative, preferably a loved one. Advance communication with physicians and nursing care providers is most prudent. It is a fact that no form will do everything we want it to, nor will it replace our charitable responsibility to help each other as death nears.

While it is uncertain if a marriage-defining amendment will make it to the floor of the current Indiana legislative session, the discussion itself will affect us all, both as Catholics and as citizens. The wording that comes to the floor will be important. It is a great benefit that we ourselves can publish our teachings and pastoral attitudes. I think I can guarantee that what we print will be respectful of people who have differing viewpoints. Respecting people is not the same as agreeing with their cause or argument — but civility in discourse is something we can model for the good of society.

You have recently seen an article in this paper about safety measures in our Catholic schools. These were in place well before the shootings at Newtown. I know that the article contained facts that you would not have gotten elsewhere. I feel that it was a great demonstration of why our diocesan newspaper is an important contributor to our faith and community life.

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