- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rick Warren acts on mental health in son’s death

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (AP) - A year after his son’s suicide, pastor Rick Warren is taking on a new mental health ministry inspired by his personal tragedy.

Warren, founder of Saddleback Church and a best-selling author, will team with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, Calif., and the National Alliance on Mental Illness to host a daylong event next month.

The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church grew out of private conversations Warren had with the local Catholic bishop, Bishop Kevin Vann, after his son’s death and his own writings in his journal as he processed his grief. Matthew Warren, who was only 27, committed suicide last April after struggling with severe depression and suicidal thoughts for years.

After Matthew’s suicide, more than 10,000 people wrote to Warren and his wife, Kay, to share their own struggles with mental illness. Warren says the conference will address a range of mental health issues, from bipolar disorder to suicide to more easily hidden issues such as anxiety, eating disorders and addiction.


Catholic health system’s growth raises questions

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The rapid growth of a St. Louis-based Catholic health care system that is branching out into for-profit ventures is raising questions about its charitable status.

Ascension Health was created 15 years ago with the merger of the St. Louis-based Daughters of Charity National Health System and the Michigan-based Sisters of St. Joseph Health System. It has since grown into the nation’s third-largest health care system by buying dozens of nonprofit hospitals and pursuing numerous for-profit ventures.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the company reported $17 billion in revenue in the 2013 fiscal year but didn’t pay corporate income taxes on its nonprofit operations. Financial statements show Ascension has $30 billion in assets.

One expert on tax-exempt organizations — University of Illinois law professor John Colombo — says other corporations like Microsoft also do charitable work, but pay taxes.

Ascension says it provided $525 million in charity care to the poor last year as well as $775 million in community benefits to the general public.


Arizona governor heads home amid furor over bill

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has returned after five days in Washington to a state that has become embroiled in a national debate over religious and gay rights because of a bill on her desk.

Brewer is pondering Senate Bill 1062 before deciding whether to sign or veto the legislation. The bill allows businesses whose owners cite sincerely held religious beliefs to deny service to gays. It allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination.

There is widespread speculation that Brewer will veto the bill, but she has not said how she’ll act.

The bill was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a social conservative group that opposes abortion and gay marriage. CAP president Cathi Herrod says the faith-based group simply wants to clarify existing state law to protect religious freedoms.


US Supreme Court won’t revive Arizona abortion law

PHOENIX (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court is refusing to revive an Arizona state law that would have disqualified abortion providers from receiving funding for other medical services they provide.

The high court on Monday declined to hear Attorney General Tom Horne’s appeal asking the justices to overturn a federal judge’s ruling blocking the 2012 law. That ruling was upheld by an appeals court in August.

The law would have disqualified Planned Parenthood and other health providers that perform abortions from receiving public funds for other services.

The Supreme Court in May refused to revive a similar law in Indiana that also has been blocked.


Pope makes first overhaul of Vatican in 25 years

VATICAN (AP) - Pope Francis has announced the first major overhaul of the Vatican’s outdated and inefficient bureaucracy in a quarter-century.

He’s created a new structure that will control all economic, administrative, personnel and procurement functions of the Holy See.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, one of Francis’ core eight cardinal advisers and a sharp critic of current Vatican governance, will head the new office.

Francis was elected pope a year ago on a mandate to reform the Vatican after documents stolen by Pope Benedict’s butler revealed the Holy See bureaucracy to be dysfunctional and corrupt.


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