New Massachusetts Health Care Law Shows Promise

WASHINGTON — Although it is too early to tell whether a new Massachusetts law will succeed in its goal of health insurance coverage for nearly everyone in the commonwealth by July 2007, the president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association said she is “immensely impressed” that the Legislature took on the difficult issue of universal health care.

Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who heads the association, said the move to find creative solutions to the health care crisis is “long overdue” and must be imitated around the country and in Washington. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signed the health insurance reform bill into law April 12.

“Every person in this country will be better off if more people are insured,” she said. Those with good health insurance and those who contribute to their employees’ insurance will see the rise in health care costs slowed, while those without insurance will get coverage and will no longer delay treatment because of worries over costs.

“It’s too new to know if it’s the right model,” she added, “but we need to make this a priority. We all have to do something.”


Bishops Receive Funds to Aid Trafficking Victims

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced April 18 that it has awarded a contract of at least $500,000 to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to aid victims of human trafficking.

Awarded through the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the department’s Administration for Children and Families, the contract will fund direct services provided to such trafficking victims through the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services. It provides a minimum of $500,000 a year and up to $6 million a year to cover such costs, with a yearly renewal option up to four more years.

The Catholic Church has been a leader in efforts in recent years to draw attention to and provide services for the large number of people who are brought into the country each year by force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation, slave labor or domestic servitude.


Catholic Author Muriel Spark Dies at 88 in Italy

WASHINGTON — Catholic novelist Muriel Spark, author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and more than 20 other books, died April 13 in a hospital in Florence, Italy. She was 88. Her funeral took place April 15 in the Tuscan town of Civitella della Chiana, where Spark had lived for almost three decades.

Spark, who became a Catholic in 1954, received the 2001 Campion Award, given annually to a noted Christian person of letters by the Catholic Book Club, a subsidiary of America Press. A working journalist, editor and biographer, Spark did not publish any novels until she was 39, three years after she became Catholic.

Her first novel, The Comforters (1957), was inspired by her studies on the Book of Job, according to a BBC website. “Several critics agree that her religious conversion was the central event of her life,” the BBC said of Spark.

In 1961 she published her most famous work, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the story of a charismatic teacher and her influence on a group of favorite girls.