Weekly roundup: Government shutdown, health care reform, and yet another interview with the pope

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Another roundup, from the midst of the government shutdown.

First, let's just get all of the stories about the U.S. government out of the way. As of midnight on Tuesday, the federal government shut down non-essential services, including national parks and monuments, museums, the supplemental nutrition program for woman and infants (WIC), food inspection for imported food, as well as a significant portion of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, among others. You can find a full list of the programs affected by the shutdown here.

The shutdown is the result of a Congressional failure to pass a Continuing Resolution to fund the government for six more weeks at current levels (which include the Draconian cuts commonly known as the sequester.) A small group of Republicans in the House seem to be demanding that any funding for the government be tied to gutting the Affordable Care Act. Not all Republicans think that making health insurance available to more people is a bad thing, though.

Meanwhile, Tuesday also saw the roll-out of the health insurance marketplaces, instituted by the Affordable Care Act. The online marketplace was hit so hard by consumers, however, that the site experienced some overload. President Obama admitted that the site was running slowly, because the demand "exceeds anything we had expected." The Affordable Care Act and the marketplaces are not affected by the government shutdown.

In the private sector, the craft store Hobby Lobby, which is owned by a Christian family who is suing the federal government to be allowed to be exempt from the HHS mandate for employers to provide insurance that includes contraception, came under fire this week when it began to appear as if the company would not carry merchandise for Hanukkah. The president of the company, Steve Green, later apologized.

Providence college in Rhode Island has rescheduled an event that it canceled last week with John Corvino. The event was initially canceled because Corvino would be speaking in favor of same-sex marriage.

The two North Carolina dioceses have decided to break up with the North Carolina Council of Churches over a same-sex amendment.

The bishops in Germany have had enough with the new mass translation, and have decide to "table" it. Who knew that was even an option?

And now let's move on to Pope Francis, rapid-fire style.

Last week, America magazine published a wide-ranging interview, in which Francis called the church on its obsession with abortion and same-sex marriage. A new poll indicates that most American Catholics agree with him, by a wide margin.

The Pope and the Gang of 8 in the curia have begun what looks like might be fairly substantial reform of the curia. Time will tell, but the Vatican is reporting that a new Apostolic Constitution may be in order.

Also, President Obama thinks he's pretty cool.

So does Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking).

John Paul II is scheduled to be canonized in April, but not everyone agrees that he ought to be canonized, particularly due to his failure to deal with and protect sex abuse victims while he was still alive.

Francis made a pilgrimage to Assisi, the land of his namesake. He's doing exactly the kinds of things we all expect him to do. Blessing disabled children, talking with actual people, freaking out his security team.

He's causing a stir again with yet another lengthy interview. Some people really like it. Other people don't.

The Vatican bank issued its first report in 125 years.

Pope Francis is on Instagram. You can follow him here.

Thomas Reese over at NCR says that Pope Francis is a true Vatican II pope, committed to implementing the reforms of that council. We shall see.

That's all for now. May you all have a blessed weekend!


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