In the afterglow of the 2008 Summer Olympics, held in Beijing, China, it's difficult to tell if anything has changed concerning repression of the Catholic Church in the most-populous country in the world.

On Aug. 15, however, in a change from past years, Catholics were allowed to attend Mass on the feast of the Assumption with "underground" Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding diocese, in Hebei province (home of Beijing). So-called security officers were present, but they allowed the crowd of 1,000 to enter the cathedral in Wuqiu village, and merely maintained order in the courtyard, not entering the church.

Bishop Jia, part of the "underground" Church, called such because it is not officially recognized by the Chinese government, is under 24-hour surveillance. Reportedly, at least 15 of the 70 or so priests in the diocese were taken to government-run guesthouses at the start of the Olympics. Some Chinese clergy have spent years in Chinese prisons for celebrating "illegal" Masses.

Political oppression of the faithful is still going on in China, but the Olympics may have assuaged the subjugation for a short time, or at least softened a bit in governmental punishment. Let's hope that repression isn't increased once the eyes of the world are not looking at China so diligently.

Going to church helps students' grades

If you want help your children raise their grade point average, take them to church. As reported in the winter 2008 issue of Sociological Quarterly, researchers found that church attendance has as much effect on a teen's GPA as whether the parents of that child earned a college degree. Students in grades 7 to 12 who went to church weekly were less likely to dropout.

Jennifer Glanville, a sociologist at the University of Iowa, analyzes the GPA as .144 higher for churchgoing students.

Other studies have shown benefits of attending church, ranging from breathing easier and living longer to being better behaved and more well-adjusted children.

The benefit recorded was the same across all major denominations.

Man in coma raises more issues

The variety of issues associated with how the United States deals with immigrants is expanding.

A Mexican man in a coma at the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago has ignited a dispute over a little-known practice at hospitals -- sending medically needy undocumented immigrants back to their countries of origin (Chicago Tribune, Aug. 20).

With the exception of pregnant women and some children and others in medical emergencies, illegal immigrants have no right to U.S. health care, according to U.S. law. Legally, hospitals are bound to stabilize all patients in an emergency, regardless of nationality or insurance status. After that, when hospitals try to transfer patients to more appropriate settings for care, such as a nursing home, complications set in.

In this case, it's reported that nursing homes generally will not serve undocumented workers who don't have health insurance or means to pay for care.

For hospitals, limited resources, as opposed to an attitude toward the patient needing care, is often the issue. This growing problem is another microcosm of why the United States needs a serious debate on the issues of immigration and health care.