The Common Good

Blog Posts By David Gibson

Posted by David Gibson 38 weeks 5 days ago
In an unusual move, the Vatican has asked the world’s bishops to quickly canvas the faithful for their views on topics like gay marriage, divorce, and birth control ahead of a major meeting of church leaders set for next fall.But it’s not clear how or whether the American bishops will undertake such an effort, or if they will only send their own views to Rome.The letter from the Vatican to New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was dated Oct. 18 and it asked that a series of questions be shared “immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received” in time for a February planning meeting in Rome.
Posted by David Gibson 38 weeks 6 days ago
While the first months of Pope Francis’ pontificate have been marked by his attention to the poor and his “Who am I to judge” attitude on homosexuality, his pledge to tackle the ban on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics could have the biggest impact for Catholics in the pews, especially in the U.S.The current policy has caused what some call a “silent schism,” and bishops around the world concede that the ban has alienated untold numbers of Catholics and their families.“I think this is the moment for mercy,” Francis told reporters when asked about remarried Catholics during a wide-ranging news conference on the plane back to Rome from Brazil in July.Like the gay issue, Francis seems to favor a more pastoral approach to the equally perplexing question of “invalid” marriages — couples who remarry outside the church without getting an annulment, or those who do not get married in church in the first place.
Posted by David Gibson 39 weeks 5 days ago
The election of Pope Francis in March heralded a season of surprises for the Catholic Church, but perhaps none so unexpected – and unsettling for conservatives – as the re-emergence of the late Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin as a model for the American Catholic future.While there is no indication that Francis knows the writings of Bernardin, who died in 1996, many say the pope’s remarks repeatedly evoke Bernardin’s signature teachings on the “consistent ethic of life” – the view that church doctrine champions the poor and vulnerable from womb to tomb – and on finding “common ground” to heal divisions in the church.
Posted by David Gibson 40 weeks 5 days ago
The great and the good — and lots of politicians and TV pundits, too — gathered Thursday to hear comedian Stephen Colbert roast and toast everyone from Pope Francis to his host for the evening, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.The 68th annual Al Smith Dinner, named for the first Catholic presidential candidate in American history, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel raised $3 million for New York’s neediest children.Colbert is a lifelong Catholic, a man who is, as Alfred E. Smith IV said in introducing him, “serious about both his craft and his Catholic faith.” The cardinal — who is also pretty funny — and the comedian first met last fall, and Colbert had Dolan on his show last month. So the archbishop of New York returned the favor by having Colbert headline the dinner.
Posted by David Gibson 40 weeks 6 days ago
Could a woman vote for the next pope?Pope Francis has said repeatedly that he wants to see greater roles for women in the Catholic Church, and some argue that he could take a giant step in that direction by appointing women to the College of Cardinals – the select and (so far) all-male club of “Princes of the Church” that casts secret ballots in a conclave to elect a new pope.Whether it’s even possible is a matter of debate. But that hasn’t stopped the feverish speculation, which was sparked last month by an article in a Spanish newspaper in which Juan Arias, a former priest who writes from Brazil, wrote that the idea “is not a joke. It’s something that Pope Francis has thought about before: naming a woman cardinal.”
Posted by Kevin Eckstrom, Cathy Lynn Grossman, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, David Gibson, Adelle M. Banks, Katherine Burgess 42 weeks 1 day ago
As the government shutdown enters its second week, some religious groups are starting to feel the pinch, and they’re also finding ways to reach out.More than 90 Catholic, evangelical, and Protestant leaders have signed a statement rebuking “pro-life” lawmakers for the shutdown, saying they are “appalled that elected officials are pursuing an extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families” who won’t receive government benefits.Starting Wednesday, evangelical, Catholic, and mainline Protestant leaders will hold a daily “Faithful Filibuster” on Capitol Hill with Bible verses on the poor “to remind Congress that its dysfunction hurts struggling families and low-income people.”
Posted by David Gibson 43 weeks 1 day ago
Pope Francis has once again given a startlingly candid interview that reinforces his vision of a Catholic Church that engages the world and helps the poor rather than pursuing culture wars, and one “that is not just top-down but also horizontal.”The pope’s conversation with Eugenio Scalfari, an atheist and well-known editor of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, took place at the pope’s residence in the Vatican guesthouse on Sept. 24 and was published on Tuesday.His newest bombshell come just two weeks after the publication of the pope’s lengthy, groundbreaking interview with a Jesuit journalist in which Francis said the church was “obsessed” with a few moral issues, like abortion and homosexuality, and needed an “attitude” adjustment if it hopes to strike a “new balance” in its approach to the wider world.
Posted by David Gibson 44 weeks 1 day ago
Catholic military chaplains cannot be forced to witness or bless a same-sex marriage, nor are they allowed to take part in any marriage counseling retreats that are open to gay couples under new rules issued by the Archdiocese for the Military Services.The rules, sent to chaplains on Sept. 18 by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, head of the AMS, also bar chaplains from taking part in a funeral for a Catholic if that participation “would give the impression that the church approves of same sex ‘marital’ relationships.”But the new rules also set out conditions that would allow Catholic military commanders to comply, without violating their beliefs, with rules giving same-sex couples under their command federal employee benefits as required by law.
Posted by David Gibson 44 weeks 3 days ago
Pope Francis’ comments last week on everything from gays to abortion (less talk, more mercy), the hierarchy (be pastors, not bureaucrats), and religious faith (doubt is part of belief) continue to reverberate through the church and the media.Here are five broader insights that this wide-ranging interview revealed about Francis — and why they will be keys to reading his pontificate, and perhaps the future of Catholicism.
Posted by David Gibson 44 weeks 6 days ago
Pope Francis on Thursday rocked the Catholic Church and surprised the wider world with a free-ranging interview that charted a course away from an institution that’s “obsessed” with a few sexual and moral issues and toward one that is more pastoral, less clerical and less doctrinaire.But amid the widespread praise for his remarks – “Catholic is the new cool,” tweeted National Journal’s Ron Fournier – and some pointed criticism from the pontiff’s right flank, there lurks a critical, unanswered question: Can Francis make his vision for the church a reality?More than detailing a list of reforms or policy change he hopes to make — which may yet happen, after time and extensive deliberations — the pope was sketching out a pastoral vision for the church, and modeling a way for clergy to speak and relate to their flocks.In order to replicate that model, Francis needs enough time to appoint bishops who share his views and who can in turn encourage and promote like-minded priests and seminarians. In many ways, the type of change Francis envisions will take a generation or more.
Posted by David Gibson 45 weeks 5 days ago
Pope Francis’ friendly letter to atheists, published this week by Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, has been cheered by Catholics who welcomed another sign of the pontiff’s new openness to the world beyond the Vatican walls.But it has also prompted some gnashing of teeth among others, who are reacting to headlines about the pope’s letter like this one in the British newspaper The Independent:“Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven.”
Posted by David Gibson 46 weeks 1 hour ago
Even as the world’s powers grasped for a last-minute resolution to the crisis in Syria, it remained an open question whether any amount of diplomacy could prevent the conflict from claiming at least one more victim: the classic Christian teaching known as the “just war” tradition.The central problem is not that the just war doctrine is being dismissed or condemned, but that it is loved too much. Indeed, both sides in the debate over punishing the Syrian regime for using chemical weapons are citing just war theory, but are reaching diametrically opposed conclusions.
Posted by Alessandro Speciale, David Gibson 46 weeks 2 days ago
VATICAN CITY — Of all the novelties that Pope Francis has brought to the Vatican, few have endeared him to the public — and unsettled his aides — as much as his penchant for picking up the phone and calling someone out of the blue.The pontiff with the pastor’s touch has phoned his cobbler in Argentina to inquire about a shoe repair, called to cancel his newspaper subscription, and phoned a woman who was raped by a local police officer to counsel her.Just this week, Francis phoned a pregnant Italian woman whose fiancé had pushed her to have an abortion.Anna Romano instead dumped the guy, wrote to the pope about her problems, and on Sept. 3 received a surprise call from the Holy Father, who offered encouragement and even said he would baptize the baby if she couldn’t find a willing priest.
Posted by David Gibson 47 weeks 3 hours ago
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the most famous funny man in the American hierarchy, went on The Colbert Report Tuesday night to trade quips with another funny guy — and another well-known Catholic — host Stephen Colbert.Indeed, as Colbert — inhabiting his onscreen persona as a blowhard rightwing pundit — said in welcoming Dolan: “You’re the second most famous Catholic in America – after myself.”But it was actually Dolan who got the first gag, and giggles, as he walked onto the set and ostentatiously bowed and kissed Colbert’s hand as if he were greeting the pope.“I’ve got to get a nice big ring if you’re going to be kissing my hand!” replied Colbert, who seemed — uncharacteristically —  unsure of how to play the exchange.In fact, while Colbert was in full faux bloviating mode, he seemed to let Dolan set the pace of their chat; Colbert didn’t poke too hard on topics that could have prompted controversy.Part of the relative deference may stem from the fact that Colbert is a serious Catholic who has taught Sunday school at his New Jersey parish. Or perhaps it was because Colbert knows Dolan personally, having appeared — out of character — at a forum on faith and humor last year at Fordham University. Or maybe Colbert was a bit out of practice: This was his first show after a two-week summer break, part of which he spent in Rome.
Posted by David Gibson 47 weeks 2 days ago
The American workplace, like the rest of U.S. society, is becoming more religiously diverse and that is raising concerns about employer accommodations for believers — and increasing the odds for uncomfortable moments around the water cooler.Yet one potential flashpoint among workers does not involve new immigrant faiths but rather two indigenous communities: white evangelicals and unaffiliated Americans who constitute one of the fastest-growing segments of the population.A major factor contributing to workplace conflict, according to a survey released on Friday, is that evangelicals — whose religious identity is tied to sharing their beliefs — are much more likely to talk about their faith at work than other religious and nonreligious groups.
Posted by Yonat Shimron, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, David Gibson, Lauren Markoe 47 weeks 6 days ago
As the Obama administration readies for a probable military strike against Syria, Religion News Service asked a panel of theologians and policy experts whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria in light of the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. Would the “Just War” doctrine justify U.S. military action, and what is America’s moral responsibility? Here are their responses, which have been edited for clarity.
Posted by David Gibson 50 weeks 2 days ago
Centuries ago, Roman Catholics helped kick-start the market for religious articles with their insatiable demand for rosaries, icons, prayer cards, and all manner of devotional objects and spiritual souvenirs.But in recent decades, evangelical Protestants have dominated the art of religious retailing, building a national network of bookstores and stamping the Christian message on almost any item that an American consumer might want, from perfume to golf balls to flip-flops.Now, Catholic entrepreneurs are looking to catch up, and at the 17th annual Catholic Marketing Network trade show last week (Aug. 6-9) there was a sense that the Catholic sector has a new opportunity to expand — if businesses can update their approach and broaden their inventory beyond the usual catalog of sacred objects.“If you are a Catholic gift and bookstore and you are not willing to reinvent yourself, you are going to be out of business,” said Alan Napleton, president of the network, which organizes the convention.
Posted by David Gibson 51 weeks 3 hours ago
For more than three decades, the Vatican of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI operated on a version of the conservative maxim, “No enemies to the right.”While left-wing theologians were silenced and liberal-to-moderate bishops were shunted aside in favor of hard-liners, liturgical traditionalists and cultural conservatives were diligently courted and given direct access to the apostolic palace.But in a few short months, Pope Francis has upended that dynamic, alienating many on the Catholic right by refusing to play favorites and ignoring their preferred agenda items even as he stressed the kind of social justice issues that are near and dear to progressives.
Posted by David Gibson 51 weeks 3 days ago
The U.S. Senate has confirmed former Catholic Relief Services head Ken Hackett to be the next ambassador to the Vatican.Hackett replaces Miguel Diaz, a theologian, and he gives President Obama an experienced voice on social justice in Rome where a new pope, Francis, has made caring for the poor a priority.Hackett’s confirmation came Thursday night by unanimous consent as senators wrapped up loose ends before the summer recess.No opposition was expected since Hackett has strong ties to both parties; for five years he served on the board of former President George W. Bush’s Millennium Challenge Corporation and he is reported to be close to Denis McDonough, Obama’s chief of staff, whose brother is a priest.
Posted by David Gibson, Alessandro Speciale 1 year 1 day ago
With his open and easygoing manner, Pope Francis charmed the media as much as the faithful during his successful visit to Brazil, the first international pilgrimage of his pontificate.But it was the pope’s remarks about gay priests, made during a free-wheeling press conference on the return trip to Rome, that drew the most headlines, raising questions about whether the pontiff was signaling a change in the church’s approach to this volatile issue.When asked by reporters about rumors of a “gay lobby” of clergy in the Vatican who were exposing the Holy See to blackmail schemes and scandal, Francis at first joked that while there’s a lot of talk about such a lobby, “I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word ‘gay.’”Then, in a more serious vein, he added:“I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good. … If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?”
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 2 weeks ago
Is calling someone a “pagan” a bad thing or a badge of honor? Do we even know what the term means?Those questions were prompted by a recent speech by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput in which he lamented the decline of faith and morals in the modern world. “Even many self-described Christians,” he declared, “are in fact pagan.”And it doesn’t sound like he meant that as a compliment.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 2 weeks ago
Nineteen former students of a high school run by Yeshiva University, the flagship school of Orthodox Judaism, have filed a $380 million federal lawsuit over what they claim are hundreds of acts of abuse by two rabbis in the 1970s and 1980s.The lawsuit, which was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y., follows the resignation of Rabbi Norman Lamm, the chancellor and head of the Yeshiva seminary. In his resignation letter, the 85-year-old Lamm, who was president of the university when the abuse took place, said he was doing penance for mishandling allegations against staff members.The 148-page lawsuit accused Lamm and various other Yeshiva officials, trustees, board members, and faculty of a “massive cover-up of the sexual abuse of students” at a university-run high school.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 3 weeks ago
The organization representing Catholic hospitals across the country says it no longer objects to the Obama administration’s mandate that all employees receive free birth control coverage.The decision by the Catholic Health Association puts the hospitals at odds with the Catholic hierarchy, which last week rejected the White House’s final regulations on an issue that many church conservatives view as evidence of the administration’s hostility to Catholicism and religious freedom.Sister Carol Keehan, head of the CHA, disagreed. “If you look at the final regulations it is very clear that we do not have to contract for, or pay for, or arrange for” contraception coverage, Keehan said in an interview on Tuesday.“It was really important that this be workable from a legal and theological perspective,” she added. “That’s what we believe we have achieved.”
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 3 weeks ago
The organization representing Catholic hospitals across the country says it no longer objects to the Obama administration’s mandate that all employees receive free birth control coverage.The decision by the Catholic Health Association puts the hospitals at odds with the Catholic hierarchy, which last week rejected the White House’s final regulations on an issue that many church conservatives view as evidence of the administration’s hostility to Catholicism and religious freedom.Sister Carol Keehan, head of the CHA, disagreed. “If you look at the final regulations it is very clear that we do not have to contract for, or pay for, or arrange for” contraception coverage, Keehan said in an interview on Tuesday.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 4 weeks ago
The chancellor and head of the seminary at Yeshiva University, the flagship U.S. school for Orthodox Judaism, resigned his posts on Monday and acknowledged that he had mishandled sex abuse allegations against staff members in the 1980s.In a letter sent to students, faculty, alumni, and donors, Rabbi Norman Lamm, 85, said that in failing to report the abuse complaints to police, he was acting “in a way that I thought was correct, but which now seems ill conceived.”“I understand better today than I did then that sometimes, when you think you are doing good, your actions do not measure up,” wrote Lamm, for decades a leading figure in Orthodox Judaism.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 4 weeks ago
Fundraising for the flagship anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic bishops is slowly recovering after being battered by the recession and sharp attacks on its mission.Officials at the Catholic Campaign for Human Development said that when 2012 collections are tallied after June 30, the program will match or slightly exceed last year’s mark of about $9.5 million. While that is still significantly down from the $12 million that the nationwide campaign was netting a few years ago, the upward trend is reassuring.“We are pretty optimistic,” said Ralph McCloud, director of the CCHD. McCloud said he was still cautious, given the uncertain nature of the economy, but added that “if things keep going the way they have been, we could see a bit of an upswing.”
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 4 weeks ago
Superman has always had a bit of a messiah complex, born as a modern-day Moses in the imagination of two Jewish guys during the Depression and over the years developing and amplifying his Christlike characteristics.So it made sense that Warner Bros. Pictures spared no effort in using the Jesus connection to attract the increasingly important Christian audience to see the latest film in the Superman franchise, Man of Steel.The studio hired a leading faith-based marketing agency, Grace Hill Media, to hold special screenings for pastors, and it developed an extensive website of Christian-themed resources — including specially-edited trailers for use in churches and Man of Steel sermon notes.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 4 weeks ago
The twin Supreme Court rulings on Wednesday that further opened the door for gay marriage in the U.S. were not entirely unexpected, and the condemnations from religious conservatives angry at the verdicts were certainly no surprise either.So the real question is what gay marriage opponents will do now.Here are four possible scenarios that took shape in the wake of Wednesday’s developments:
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 6 weeks ago
President Obama on Friday nominated Ken Hackett, former head of Catholic Relief Services, to be the next U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.It’s a savvy move, picking a Catholic whose career in the church has been dedicated to alleviating suffering as America’s representative to a pope who has made helping the poor a priority for his pontificate.Hackett replaces Miguel Diaz, who left the post last November to teach at the University of Dayton. Diaz is a theologian, which was a first for the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, and that also seemed to make sense in that Pope Benedict XVI, whose retirement led to the election of Pope Francis last March, is a renowned theologian.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 7 weeks ago
Is there anything morally redeeming about Game of Thrones? Does the hit HBO series even have a moral vision?The show is certainly entertaining, almost addictively so, and as Game of Thrones wraps up its third season on Sunday, the ratings reflect that popularity: a record of more than 5.5 million viewers have followed the ruthless struggles for power among the teeming clans of Westeros, the medieval-looking world created by fantasy novelist George R.R. Martin.That success has also guaranteed that the show will be back for a fourth year of mayhem and passion, swords and sorcery, despite this season’s many violent endings. Or, as one tweet put it after the bloody penultimate episode: “Why doesn’t George R.R. Martin use twitter? Because he killed all 140 characters.”But therein lies the moral problem for some: The appeal of the series seems bound up in the senseless violence and amoral machinations – not to mention the free-wheeling sex – that the writers use to dramatize this brutish world of shifting alliances and dalliances.That, in turn, has prompted intense debates about whether Christians should watch Games of Thrones at all, or whether the show’s only possible virtue is depicting how the world would look if Christ had never been born – or what it could look like if Christianity disappeared tomorrow.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 8 weeks ago
The news is not good for the new movie “After Earth,” which means the news is not good for Sony Pictures, or Will Smith … or, it seems, Scientology, whose sci-fi inflected religious system inspired what was to be a summer blockbuster. Now it’s looking like a summer bust.As the NYTimes reports, “After Earth” took in 18 percent less than the lowest of prerelease expectations and may have ended Smith’s reputation as a surefire action-adventure box office draw — not to mention hurting the budding career of son Jaden, his co-star. Oh, and how much further off track could M. Night Shyamalan’s career go? He used to pose big questions in intriguing ways, but he directed and co-wrote this movie, yet another flop for him.The movie has been ripped in reviews, and may well add to the narrative of decline and crisis that has been surrounding Scientology: an exodus of members, tell-all books, lawsuits, celebrity scandals. Well, maybe Scientology IS like a real religion after all.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 8 weeks ago
With the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, the “Nuns on the Bus” on Wednesday kicked off a national tour for immigration reform aimed at giving a faith-based push to legislation that’s now hanging in the balance in Congress.“We have got to make this an urgent message of now,” Sister Simone Campbell, head of the social justice lobby Network, which organized the tour, told a rally on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.“The next six to eight weeks is going to determine what we can accomplish,” Campbell said as she pointed to nearby Ellis Island, the American gateway for generations of immigrants. “The time is now for immigration reform.”Champions of immigration reform believe they have their best opportunity to pass a comprehensive overhaul since 2007, when an effort backed by President George W. Bush was thwarted by members of his own party. After Republicans lost the Latino vote in last fall’s elections, GOP leaders said they would be open to an immigration bill that they think could help change that political dynamic.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 9 weeks ago
Is Pope Francis endorsing heresy?It might look that way from the eye-catching headlines this week that made it appear everyone was bound for heaven — “even atheists!” — thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross.The passage that prompted the reports came from Francis’ brief homily at the informal morning Mass that he celebrates in the chapel at the Vatican guesthouse.Speaking on Wednesday, Francis said that as human beings created in the image of God, everyone has a “duty to do good.”“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists,” he said, answering his own query. “Everyone! And this blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the blood of Christ has redeemed us all!”Cue the jaw dropping and head scratching. Atheists were pleasantly surprised, conservative Catholics were dazed and confused, and the pope’s comments raced around the Internet; for a while they were the second-most shared piece on Reddit.So was Francis preaching a form of “universalism?" That is the unorthodox teaching that says, essentially, that all faiths are equal and all are going to heaven, especially if you are nice to people here on earth. It’s also a heresy that Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, spent a career quashing every time he thought he thought he spied a hint of it in some theologian’s writings.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 9 weeks ago
NEW YORK — When Cardinal Timothy Dolan used the morning talk shows on Easter Sunday to say the Catholic Church could do a better job of welcoming gays and lesbians, his remarks were hailed by one activist as an “Easter miracle” and by another as an encouraging “first step.”But two months later, it’s still not clear what the second step in this fraught process might be, or even if there is a second step. And there are signs that things may only get more complicated.Since Easter, three more states have passed same-sex marriage laws, and next month the U.S. Supreme Court will hand down a gay marriage ruling that will again spotlight the bishops’ full-throated opposition to a whole host of civil protections for gays and lesbians, particularly marriage.Moreover, as Americans — and American Catholics — grow increasingly accepting of homosexuality, and as foes of gay rights grow increasingly determined, conflict at the parish level seems inevitable. The uneasy “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” policy that once allowed gay and lesbian Catholics to take church positions is clashing with their increasing visibility in the form of marriage licenses or wedding announcements.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 9 weeks ago
Pope Francis is warning Catholics not to demonize those who are not members of the church, and he specifically defended atheists, saying that building walls against non-Catholics leads to “killing in the name of God.”“(T)his ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God,” Francis said Wednesday in remarks at the informal morning Mass that he celebrates in the chapel at the Vatican guesthouse where he lives.“And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”Francis explained that doing good is not a matter of faith: “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because he has made us in his image and likeness.”
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 10 weeks ago
Nothing upsets the folks in the pews as much as changing the liturgy that they’re accustomed to, and that seemed likely to be the case when the Vatican ordered revisions to the familiar prayers and rubrics of the Catholic Mass.But now, more than a year after the changes took effect in U.S. parishes, a survey of American priests shows that they are more disturbed by the innovations than their flocks.In fact, the poll, conducted by researchers at St. John’s University School of Theology-Seminary in Collegeville, Minn., showed that almost 60 percent of priests surveyed did not like the new Roman Missal, as the liturgical book for the Mass is known, while about 40 percent approve.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 10 weeks ago
News that scientists had for the first time recovered stem cells from cloned human embryos prompted dire warnings from religious leaders who say the research crosses a moral red line and could lead to designer babies.Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, point man for the U.S. Catholic bishops on bioethical issues, said Wednesday that “this means of making embryos for research will be taken up by those who want to produce cloned children as ‘copies’ of other people.”Human cloning “treats human beings as products,” O’Malley said on behalf of the bishops, “manufactured to order to suit other people’s wishes. … A technical advance in human cloning is not progress for humanity but its opposite.”    
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 11 weeks ago
Even before rogue abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted in Philadelphia on Monday of delivering and then killing late-term infants, abortion opponents were convinced they had a case that could reshape an abortion debate that has remained static over the years.After the verdict, they were even more confident.“Dr. Gosnell is only the front man; and the real trial has only just begun. The defendant is the abortion license in America,” Robert P. George, a Princeton law professor and leading conservative activist, wrote after a jury convicted Gosnell of three counts of first-degree murder for snipping the spines of babies after botched abortions.Gosnell, who could face the death penalty, was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 41-year-old patient who sought an abortion at the squalid West Philadelphia clinic that prosecutors labeled a “house of horrors.”Yet the fervent prayers for a game-changing impact from the Gosnell conviction may go unanswered for a variety of reasons.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 12 weeks ago
NEW YORK — A Tony-nominated play that offered a controversial take on the Virgin Mary reflecting on her life held its final performance on Sunday, closing after only two weeks as poor ticket sales never matched high expectations.Now the question is: Why?Shows fold on Broadway all the time, of course, and as The New York Times noted, just 25 percent of them ever show a profit. But was there something about The Testament of Mary that doomed it to failure?After all, biblically themed shows are all the rage on television and especially on cable; the recent History Channel miniseries The Bible generated huge ratings, and a host of shows and films are trying to explore — and perhaps exploit — similar territory.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 12 weeks ago
Christian conservatives have grown increasingly alarmed in recent weeks over reports and rumors that the Pentagon is considering new policies aimed at discriminating against Christians and disciplining or even court-martialing those who share their faith.But the Department of Defense on Thursday sought to debunk that speculation, saying that while aggressive proselytizing is barred, evangelization is still permitted and the rights of all believers – and non-believers – will be protected.“The U.S. Department of Defense has never and will never single out a particular religious group for persecution or prosecution,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said in a statement. “The Department makes reasonable accommodations for all religions and celebrates the religious diversity of our service members.”
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 12 weeks ago
NEW YORK — The “Nuns on the Bus” are revving up their engines for another national campaign, only this time the Catholic sisters are taking their mobile platform for social justice along the country’s Southern border to push Congress to pass immigration reform.“The ‘Nuns on the Bus’ is going on the road again!” Sister Simone Campbell, head of the social justice lobby Network, told an enthusiastic gathering of faith leaders and charity activists at a Manhattan awards ceremony Wednesday (May 1).“This time we’re going out for commonsense immigration reform,” she said to rousing applause.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 13 weeks ago
A former adviser to Sarah Palin and an attorney with a long record of advocating conservative causes, will become the first spokeswoman for the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the USCCB announced Monday.The addition of Kim Daniels, who is a leader of the conservative media lobby, Catholic Voices USA, seems aimed at revamping the hierarchy’s communications strategy, which many bishops say has been hampered by a lack of coordination and an authoritative spokesperson.Under the new structure, Daniels will speak for the president of the bishops’ conference — currently New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan — while the USCCB’s media office will continue to speak for the bishops as a whole.Daniels’ hiring also looks like an effort to satisfy Dolan’s goal of finding an “attractive, articulate, intelligent” laywoman to help recast the hierarchy’s image, which many feared was starting to be seen as unfriendly to women because of legal battles like the fight against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.Daniels has experience in that field, having worked for years with the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative legal group, where she fought, for example, for the rights of pharmacists to claim a conscience exemption from dispensing morning-after pills. Such religious liberty battles have become a public policy priority for the bishops, and having Daniels on board gives another veteran voice to the bishops’ campaign.Yet the hiring — Daniels has been working on a “contract basis,” according to the USCCB — also raises many questions that the USCCB’s brief press release did not answer.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 13 weeks ago
The story of a Long Island Catholic ousted from his parish jobs for marrying his male partner generated headlines, outrage and an 18,000-signature petition to Bishop William Murphy to have Nicholas Coppola reinstated. But now the tale has an odd coda: Murphy, who heads the Diocese of Rockville Centre, mailed the petitions back to Coppola with a one-line cover letter on the bishop’s stationery that reads: “FROM YOUR FAITHFUL ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP.”No signature, nothing else.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 13 weeks ago
Reports this week that the late Pope John Paul II may be on the verge of sainthood after a second miracle was credited to his intercession aren’t a huge surprise: When he died eight years ago, crowds were already clamoring for his canonization, and Pope Benedict XVI quickly waived the usual five-year waiting period to get the process rolling.But the news that Pope Francis, just six weeks on the job, has cleared the way for the long-stalled canonization of martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero is a stunner that sends another important signal about the new pope’s priorities.“Sainthood is often as much about politics and image as anything else,” said the Rev. Harvey Egan, a Jesuit priest and professor emeritus of theology at Boston College.“It’s not surprising to me that this present pope being from South America, having the same inclinations as Romero, would unblock the process and say ‘Push his cause through,’ and I think rightly so.”
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 14 weeks ago
Leading U.S. Catholic bishops on Monday denounced efforts to use the Boston Marathon bombings to derail the push for immigration reform, saying it is wrong to brand all immigrants as dangerous and that a revamped system would in fact make Americans safer.“Opponents of immigration … will seize on anything, and when you’ve got something as vivid and as recent as the tragedy in Boston it puts another arrow in their quiver,” New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told reporters.“To label a whole group of people – namely, the vast population of hard-working, reliable, virtuous immigrants – to label them, to demean them because of the vicious, tragic actions of two people is just ridiculous,” he said. “Illogical. Unfair. Unjust.”
Posted by David Gibson, Lauren Markoe 1 year 15 weeks ago
No sooner had the reality of the Boston Marathon bombing sunk in on Monday afternoon than Muslim activists in the U.S. began sending out a slew of news releases, tweets, and Facebook messages urging prayers and aid for the victims — and condemning whoever was behind the horrific attack.“American Muslims, like Americans of all backgrounds, condemn in the strongest possible terms today’s cowardly bomb attack on participants and spectators of the Boston Marathon,” Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement on Monday.It’s a familiar race against time for Muslim groups. Almost as soon as the smoke cleared around Copley Square, they knew from long experience that some would immediately point the finger of blame in their direction.Many widely believed Muslims were behind the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, until American militiaman Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the crime.“We also call for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators,” Awad added, echoing a statement from the Muslim Public Affairs Council that called on “all of us as Americans to work together to bring those responsible to justice.”
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 15 weeks ago
A gay man ousted from posts at his Long Island parish after a critic complained that he had married his partner delivered a petition with more than 18,000 signatures on Thursday to Bishop William Murphy, asking to be reinstated. “Bishop Murphy, please let Nicholas Coppola resume volunteering at his parish – and make it clear that faithful gay and lesbian Catholics are welcome to participate fully in parish life in your diocese,” reads the petition. Murphy is longtime head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre.According to gay activist network GLAAD, which has been assisting Coppola, a security guard at the diocese agreed to deliver the petition but said that neither Murphy nor diocesan officials would meet with Coppola and representatives of the activist groups who accompanied him.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 16 weeks ago
March Madness ended with an exhilarating April flourish on Monday as the Louisville Cardinals defeated the Michigan Wolverines and became the new kings of college basketball after a tense 82-76 win in Atlanta.But the euphoria that always accompanies the popular NCAA tournament may be short-lived this year, as media attention returns to an unprecedented spate of crises that have prompted grave concern about the ethics of college sports.Chief among the outrages is the ongoing backlash over an abusive basketball coach at Rutgers University, but the sex abuse scandal in the Penn State football program also remains fresh in the public’s mind.A litany of other alleged acts of malfeasance involving the NCAA, big-time schools, high-profile coaches and student athletes also continues to undermine the credibility of college programs, while concerns are growing about the pernicious influence of huge television contracts, especially for college football games.Yet amid this tumult, a brand-new basketball conference composed almost entirely of Catholic schools is set to emerge this summer, which some say could point the way toward a new, or perhaps old-fashioned, model of college sports — and maybe even burnish the church’s image along the way.
Posted by Alessandro Speciale, David Gibson 1 year 16 weeks ago
Pope Francis has won widespread acclaim thus far in his nascent papacy with popular gestures like washing the feet of juveniles during Holy Week and refusing many papal perks. But now comes the hard part of his new job: reforming the Vatican.The Roman Curia, as the central administration of the Catholic Church is known, has been riven by scandals and allegations of infighting and careerism, which helped undermine Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s reign and reportedly pushed him to resign.The dysfunction was so bad that reforming the Curia became a rallying cry for many cardinals at the conclave that elected Francis. But will he deliver on the promise of reform?
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 16 weeks ago
When New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told national news programs on Easter Sunday that Catholic leaders need to do a better job of showing that their opposition to gay marriage is not “an attack on gay people,” the nation’s top Catholic bishop seemed to be signaling an important shift in tone, if not policies, that acknowledges two new realities.One is the election of a new pope, Francis, who in less than a month has demonstrated a clear preference for engagement and inclusion (washing the feet of women and Muslim inmates at a Rome youth prison, for example) rather than the confrontation and political purism that often found favor under his predecessor, Benedict XVI.The other is the ongoing shift in favor of same-sex marriage in the court of public opinion and — if recent arguments on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act are any guide — perhaps soon in the U.S. Supreme Court.