Posted by David Gibson 27 weeks 3 days ago
BALTIMORE — A divided Catholic hierarchy on Tuesday failed to agree on a statement about the economy after a debate that revealed sharp differences over the kind of social justice issues that were once a hallmark of the bishops’ public profile.The defeat of the document, titled “The Hope of the Gospel in Difficult Economic Times,” followed an hour of unusually intense debate among the 230 bishops gathered here for their annual meeting. It left many of them openly frustrated that the prelates have not made a joint statement about the nation’s economic woes four years after the recession hit.“This document is dead,” New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said with obvious disappointment as he brought the gavel down on the debate after it failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed for passage.
Posted by David Gibson 27 weeks 4 days ago
BALTIMORE — After sweeping setbacks to the hierarchy’s agenda on Election Day, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Monday told U.S. Catholic bishops that they must now examine their own failings, confess their sins and reform themselves if they hope to impact the wider culture.“That’s the way we become channels of a truly effective transformation of the world, through our own witness of a repentant heart,” Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the 250 bishops gathered here for their annual meeting.“The premier answer to the question ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ is not politics, the economy, secularism, sectarianism, globalization, or global warming … none of these, as significant as they are,” Dolan said, citing many of the issues that have become favorite targets of the hierarchy.
Posted by David Gibson 28 weeks 2 days ago
Mitt Romney failed in his bid to win the White House back for Republicans, but the biggest losers in Tuesday’s voting may be Christian conservatives who put everything they had into denying President Barack Obama a second term and battling other threats to their agenda.Instead of the promised victories, the religious right encountered defeat at almost every turn. Not only did Obama win convincingly, but Democrats held onto the Senate – and the power to confirm judges – and Wisconsin elected the nation’s first openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin.Meanwhile, Republican senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock went down to unanticipated defeat in large part because of their strongly anti-abortion views, and an effort in Florida to restrict abortion failed. For the first time ever, same-sex marriage proponents won on ballots in four out of four states, while marijuana for recreational use was legalized in two out of three states where the question was on the ballot.Even Michele Bachmann, an icon among Christian conservatives, barely held onto her House seat in Minnesota while Tea Party favorite Allen West lost his congressional district in Florida.“Evangelical Christians must see the 2012 election as a catastrophe for crucial moral concerns,” R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote in a sobering post-mortem.
Posted by David Gibson 29 weeks 1 day ago
A number of Roman Catholic bishops are making forceful last-minute appeals to their flock to vote on Election Day, and their exhortations are increasingly sounding like calls to support Republican challenger Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama.The most recent example: a letter from Illinois Bishop Daniel Jenky accusing the administration of an unprecedented “assault upon our religious freedom” and implying that Catholics who pull the lever for Democrats who support abortion rights are like those who condemned Jesus to death.“Since the foundation of the American Republic and the adoption of the Bill of Rights, I do not think there has ever been a time more threatening to our religious liberty than the present,” Jenky writes in the letter, which he ordered priests in his Peoria diocese to read at all Masses on Sunday.In the letter, Jenky blames Obama and the Democratic majority in the Senate for trampling on the Catholic Church’s rights and moral convictions by requiring health insurers to provide contraception coverage. Jenky also compares abortion rights supporters to the Jewish crowd in Jerusalem that pledged loyalty to the Roman Empire and demanded that Pontius Pilate crucify Jesus.“For those who hope for salvation, no political loyalty can ever take precedence over loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and to his Gospel of Life,” Jenky writes.
Posted by David Gibson 29 weeks 4 days ago
Breaking a1e longstanding personal pledge, Southern Baptist leader Richard Land has endorsed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, saying next week's election is the most important since Abraham Lincoln's win in 1860 and he can no longer stay silent.“America is at a fork in the road and must choose between a President Barack Obama who wants to remake America in the model of a European welfare state and a Governor Mitt Romney who wants to restore a more economically vibrant and traditionally moral America,” Land wrote in an Oct. 26 column in the Christian Post.Land, who is executive editor of the independent Christian Post and the top public policy spokesman for the SBC, said the “stark and revealing” differences between the Republicans and Democrats on abortion rights and same-sex marriage guided his decision. “For Christians of traditional religious faith, there cannot be more fundamental issues than the protection of the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death and the defense of marriage as a divinely-ordained institution between one man and one woman,” he wrote.Land’s endorsement comes just as Romney's campaign has been trying to cast the candidate in a moderate light by downplaying the Republican’s views on abortion and gay rights and saying voters should not expect him to take significant action on those social issues if he is elected.
Posted by David Gibson 31 weeks 3 days ago
NEW YORK — A year ago, the Rev. Frank Pavone was facing an existential crisis in the unlikeliest of places.The longtime head of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life, Pavone had been confined to the Diocese of Amarillo by his bishop, Patrick J. Zurek, who sent a letter to every other U.S. bishop declaring that he had so many concerns about the group’s $10 million budget that Pavone shouldn’t be trusted with donors’ money.Pavone’s backers were stunned, and many stopped giving, which only exacerbated the problems that helped get Priests for Life into trouble in the first place. Pavone also couldn’t go on the road to reassure funders and drum up desperately needed cash.Instead, the New York-born priest was stuck in a convent in the Texas panhandle where he served as chaplain to an order of nuns in a place called Prayer Town, a virtual prisoner in a war of words with Zurek, who had blasted his “incorrigible defiance of my legitimate authority as his bishop.”
Posted by David Gibson 31 weeks 5 days ago
Catholicism’s social justice teachings have often been called the church’s “best-kept secret,” and after the Oct. 11 vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan – the first such showdown between the first two Catholics to oppose each other on a national ticket – that may still be the case.While moderator Martha Raddatz earned kudos for her performance, her only question about the candidates’ shared Catholic faith came near the end of the 90-minute debate, and she framed it solely as a question of how their faith affects their policies on abortion rights.That was seen as a victory for Catholic conservatives and Republicans who want to reinforce the image of the church as a “single-issue” religion – that issue being abortion – and a setback for liberal Democrats and others who have struggled to highlight the church’s teachings on the common good as central to Catholicism’s witness in the public square.“What a lost opportunity!” wrote Michael O’Loughlin at the blog of America magazine, a national Jesuit weekly. “If the moderator planned to discuss faith, and I’m glad she did, why limit the discussion to one issue, however important, when the full spectrum of Catholic social teaching is ripe for an expansive and thought provoking conversation?”
Posted by David Gibson, Daniel Burke 32 weeks 3 days ago
When Joe Biden and Paul Ryan face off in the vice-presidential debate Thursday night, it will mark the first showdown of its kind between the first Catholics ever to oppose each other on the major party tickets.A “Catholic Thrilla in Manila” as a Washington Post headline put it, recalling the famous 1975 Ali-Frazier heavyweight bout in the Philippines. Store window signs in the host city of Danville, Ky., prefer the “Thrill in the Ville.”Whatever it is called, expectations among Catholics are as high as the stakes for both campaigns.Joseph Cella, who leads Catholic outreach for the Romney-Ryan campaign in Michigan, where the GOP ticket has nearly closed a 10-point gap, said the campaign is organizing debate-watching parties nationwide.“I don¹t see how Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan could avoid discussing principles of importance to Catholics,” said Cella, a veteran conservative activist.
Posted by Daniel Burke, David Gibson 32 weeks 5 days ago
BETHESDA, Md. — With voters focused intently on pocketbook issues, both Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are framing their faith-outreach efforts around the economy as the presidential campaign enters its final weeks.That marks a shift from previous election cycles, campaign advisers say.“That’s a major difference between this election and the last. The economy is the single issue that transcends every demographic, every coalition, every interest group,” said Mark DeMoss, an evangelical who has led Romney’s efforts to rally conservative Christians — a key Republican voting bloc — around the GOP nominee, who is a Mormon.“Evangelicals are no less interested in the unemployment rate and the cost of living than non-evangelicals,” DeMoss added.
Posted by David Gibson 34 weeks 1 day ago
When some American Catholics worry that the hierarchy is tilting toward the Republican Party, or taking the church back to the 19th century (or earlier), they often point to Cardinal Raymond Burke as Exhibit A.That’s understandable, because love him or loathe him — and few are on the fence — Burke’s many pronouncements on politics and the culture wars have given both fans and critics plenty of ammunition for their respective views. Back when he was archbishop of St. Louis in 2004, for instance, Burke touched off a fierce debate by declaring that Catholic politicians such as John Kerry who support abortion rights should be denied Communion. Voters who supported them were in grave peril too, he added.Burke doubled down on those views after Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to a top Vatican job in 2008, saying that under President Obama the Democratic party “risks transforming itself definitively into a ‘party of death’.” In 2009, Burke fueled another controversy when he said that the late Sen. Edward Kennedy should have been denied a church funeral for his support of abortion rights and gay rights.
Posted by Daniel Burke, David Gibson 35 weeks 2 days ago
In a surprise announcement that seemed scripted by the novelist Dan Brown, a Harvard professor revealed an ancient scrap of papyrus on Tuesday (Sept. 18) that purports to refer to Jesus' wife.The so-called "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" presents a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, said Karen King, a well-respected historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School. The fourth-century fragment says, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife ...,'" according to King. The rest of the sentence is cut off. The fragment also says "she will be able to be my disciple," according to King. The discovery that some ancient Christians thought Jesus had a wife could shake up centuries-old Christian traditions, King suggested. But even King acknowledged that questions remain about the receipt-sized scrap, which contains just 33 words and incomplete sentences. Here are five of the biggest questions.
Posted by David Gibson 35 weeks 3 days ago
A series of recent developments are renewing questions about the Catholic bishops' alignment with the Republican Party, with much of the attention focusing on comments by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who said he “certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion.”In a wide-ranging interview published Sept. 14, Chaput also echoed the views of a number of prominent bishops when he praised Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan for trying to address the “immoral” practice of deficit spending through his libertarian-inflected budget proposals."Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell. Period. There’s just no doubt about it,” Chaput told National Catholic Reporter.“But Jesus didn’t say the government has to take care of them, or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. Those are prudential judgments. Anybody who would condemn someone because of their position on taxes is making a leap that I can’t make as a Catholic.”Chaput stressed that he is a registered independent “because I don’t think the church should be identified with one party or another.” But he said that the Democratic Party’s positions on abortion rights, gay rights, and religious freedom “cause me a great deal of uneasiness.”He added that economic issues are “prudential judgments” open to a variety of legitimate approaches. Abortion, on the other hand, is “intrinsically evil” and must always be opposed.That is a talking point voiced by many Catholic conservatives, including Ryan himself. Last Friday, Ryan told the Christian Broadcasting Network that opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, and support for religious freedom, are all “non-negotiables” for a Catholic politician while “on other issues, of economics and such like that, that’s a matter of prudential judgment.”
Posted by David Gibson 36 weeks 5 days ago
Finn, leader of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and an outspoken conservative in the American hierarchy, was convicted of a single misdemeanor count for not telling police that one of his priests, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, had taken hundreds of lewd images of children in Catholic schools and parishes.But even as he became the first U.S. bishop ever convicted in criminal court for shielding an abusive priest, Finn’s standing inside the church appears uncertain, and the subject of intense debate.Should he stay or should he go? Finn has indicated that he wants to tough it out.
Posted by David Gibson 37 weeks 3 days ago
The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, a well-known Catholic author and television personality, has given up his longtime spot on the conservative cable network EWTN following comments in which he appeared to defend clergy who abuse children while blaming some victims.“Father Benedict has led a life of tremendous compassion and service to others and his spiritual insights have been a great gift to the EWTN family for many years. We are profoundly grateful to him and assure him of our prayers,” Michael P. Warsaw, head of EWTN Global Catholic Network said in announcing Groeschel’s decision to step down.In his statement on Monday Warsaw also asked EWTN viewers “to pray for all those who have been affected by this painful situation and in particular those who have been victims of sexual abuse.”
Posted by David Gibson 37 weeks 3 days ago
The U.S. Catholic bishops' point man on sexual abuse has said that the hierarchy's credibility on fixing the problem is "shredded" and that the situation is comparable to the Reformation, when “the episcopacy, the regular clergy, even the papacy were discredited.”Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Ill., last month told a conference of staffers who oversee child safety programs in American dioceses that he had always assumed that consistently implementing the bishops’ policies on child protection, “coupled with some decent publicity, would turn public opinion around.”
Posted by David Gibson 38 weeks 1 day ago
The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, whose comments defending priests who sexually abuse children sparked a firestorm of controversy (see related story here), on Thursday evening apologized for the remarks. Groeschel had said that priests who sexually abuse children "on their first offense" should not go to jail and added that in “a lot of cases,” the child is “the seducer.”The religious community he founded, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, based in New York, also denounced the comments. The statements followed a wave of condemnation that grew in the days since the interview with Groeschel was first published.
Posted by David Gibson 38 weeks 1 day ago
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered his highly-anticipated benediction Thursday night to close out the Republican National Convention in Tampa.Dolan will do the same for the Democrats next week in Charlotte, so this blessing seemed less like an imprimatur for the GOP than it would have had President Obama not taken the cardinal up on his offer to give the closing prayer after he accepts his party’s nomination.Moreover, Cardinal Dolan’s four-minute prayer clearly had something for everyone – or, rather, something to cheer and challenge everyone in the hall.He mentioned the importance of protecting the unborn, but also welcoming immigrants. His riff on religious freedom was a swipe at the birth control mandate, but he also mentioned the importance of “solidarity” and the “common good,” two bedrock principles of Catholic social teaching that the Republican platform – and especially Paul Ryan’s budget plans – are seen as undermining.
Posted by David Gibson 38 weeks 3 days ago
Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., a leading conservative in the Catholic hierarchy who is set to become the next archbishop of San Francisco, was arrested over the weekend for drunken driving and has apologized “for the disgrace I have brought upon the Church and myself.”Catholic experts said the arrest was not likely to derail Cordileone’s installation, set for Oct. 4, given that it appeared to be an isolated incident and he apologized so quickly and publicly.Cordileone, 56, was taken into custody Saturday at 12:26 a.m. after San Diego police stopped his vehicle at a DUI checkpoint near the San Diego State University campus. A native of San Diego, he was booked into the county jail on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence and was released later Saturday after posting $2,500 bail.In a statement on Monday, Cordileone explained that he was having dinner at the home of some friends, along with his 88-year-old mother, who lives near the university. He was driving his mother home after midnight when he was topped by police “and was found to be over the California legal blood alcohol level.”
Posted by David Gibson 38 weeks 4 days ago
In a move that could recast the reigning political narrative about the Catholic bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan has accepted an invitation to deliver the closing benediction at the Democratic National Convention, a week after he gives a similar blessing to the Republicans in Tampa, Fla.From the start, Dolan, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made it clear that he would be willing to pray at the Democratic convention. There were doubts, however, that the Democrats would invite Dolan.
Posted by David Gibson 38 weeks 5 days ago
NEW YORK — Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who sparked controversy by agreeing to deliver the closing blessing at the Republican convention in Tampa this week, on Monday drew further attention to his political role by asking both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama to sign a “civility pledge” promoted by a leading conservative Catholic activist.The archbishop of New York wrote to Romney and Obama, as well as their running mates, Paul Ryan and Joe Biden, asking them to sign the “Civility in America” pledge developed by Carl Anderson, head of the powerful Knights of Columbus and a man with long-standing ties to the Republican Party.
Posted by David Gibson 39 weeks 1 day ago
The news that New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the nation’s most prominent Catholic prelate, will deliver the closing blessing to the Republican National Convention in Florida next week was seen as a huge coup for Mitt Romney, the party's presumptive nominee. But the move has also prompted a sharp debate within the church over the increasingly close ties between leading bishops and the GOP.“The cozy relationship between a sizable portion of U.S. bishops and the Republican Party should be cause for concern, and not just among progressive Catholics,” Michael O’Loughlin wrote in a post on the website of America magazine, a leading Catholic weekly published by the Jesuits.“Cardinal Dolan’s appearance in Tampa will damage the church’s ability to be a moral and legitimate voice for voiceless, as those who view the Catholic Church as being a shill for the GOP have just a bit more evidence to prove their case,” O'Loughlin concluded.
Posted by David Gibson 40 weeks 5 days ago
American nuns facing a Vatican takeover of their leadership organization on Aug. 10 rejected Rome’s plans to recast the group in a more conservative mold, but declined — for now — to respond with an ultimatum that could have created an unprecedented schism between the sisters and the hierarchy.Instead, the nuns said they wanted to pursue a negotiated solution to the showdown that has galvanized American Catholics in recent months and prompted an outpouring of support for the sisters that left the Vatican with a black eye.The statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious came at the end of the LCWR’s annual assembly here and was the first formal response to the Vatican from the entire organization, which represents most of the 56,000 nuns in the U.S.The Vatican announced in April that it was assigning a team of bishops to take control of the LCWR in order to make the organization — and by extension, most U.S. nuns — hew more closely and publicly to orthodox teachings on sexuality and theology.Sister Pat Farrell, the outgoing president of the LCWR, on Friday read the official response that expressed the organization’s “deep disappointment” with Rome’s verdict. But the statement also said the nuns wanted to keep talking with the hierarchy in hopes of “creating more possibilities for the laity and, particularly for women, to have a voice in the church.”
Posted by David Gibson 41 weeks 1 day ago
News that Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert and New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan would appear together on a panel on faith and humor next month was greeted with widespread anticipation: Both men are devout Catholics and pretty darned funny.But now this tale has a surprising punch line that will surely make a lot of people unhappy: Organizers of the Catholic comedy slam, set for Sept. 14 at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York, have announced a total media blackout of the event.
Posted by David Gibson 41 weeks 1 day ago
Catholic sisters gathered in St. Louis for their annual assembly on Thursday intensified discussions aimed at thwarting a Vatican takeover of their group, but hanging over the meeting was an even larger existential question: Do the nuns have a future?The viability issue is central to the dispute between Rome and the nuns that has riveted Catholics and dominated this year's meeting of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The steering group represents most of the 56,000 nuns in religious orders in the United States.The Vatican announced in April that a team of bishops would take control of the LCWR in order to make the nuns hew more closely and publicly to orthodox teachings on sexuality and theology. The sisters are expected to deliver their first formal reply to the takeover on Friday.A key justification for Rome's action was the argument that vocations to more progressive women's religious communities are in free fall: In 1965 there were 180,000 sisters in religious life, more than three times today's number. The decline is especially acute in orders that belong to the LCWR.
Posted by David Gibson 41 weeks 2 days ago
As hundreds of nuns met in St. Louis on Wednesday to begin crafting an answer to Vatican demands that their leaders toe the line on orthodoxy, there was a pervasive sense that this week's discussions could lead to a fateful juncture in the history of Catholicism in America."As you know, this is an assembly like no other assembly we've had," said Sister Pat Farrell, a Franciscan from Iowa who heads the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents most of the 56,000 nuns in communities across the country."I suspect we're in for a lot of surprises," Farrell told the sisters as she opened the LCWR's annual meeting.The options under consideration by the 900 nuns — several hundred more than have attended recent gatherings — range from asking the Vatican to continue the dialogue to shuttering the LCWR and reorganizing the leadership body of sisters into a group that would be beyond the Vatican's control.But that would also signal a historic shift in a church in which the nuns for centuries simply did the work that the bishops preached about — serving the poor, caring for the sick, and educating the young.
Posted by David Gibson 41 weeks 5 days ago
By tradition, the storied Al Smith Dinner has provided a few hours of comic relief from the angry volleys of the campaign trail – a white-tie charity banquet held in the weeks before Election Day, hosted by the archbishop of New York and featuring speeches by the two presidential candidates on the condition that they lob nothing more than good-natured jibes.But the Catholic hierarchy’s fierce feud with President Obama, abetted by the increasingly sharp tone of the 2012 elections, is threatening to invade this demilitarized zone and give New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan a case of pre-dinner agita.Dolan has reportedly extended an offer to Obama (as well as his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney) to attend this year’s dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria, scheduled for Oct. 18, and the president has accepted. That has mobilized abortion opponents, who view Obama as the worst thing since Roe v. Wade and an enemy of religious liberty because of his administration's controversial birth control mandate.The Rev. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, a leading abortion opponent based in Staten Island, said on Aug. 6 that “the polite putting aside of differences for a while amounts to scandal.”
Posted by David Gibson 42 weeks 2 days ago
Though she is at the center of one of the biggest crises in the Catholic Church today, Sister Pat Farrell is loath to talk about herself, and certainly not in any way that would make her a focus of the looming showdown between the Vatican and American nuns.To be sure, Farrell has spoken publicly and with quiet clarity about why the organization she heads, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, rejects Rome’s plans to take control of the umbrella group that represents most of the 57,000 nuns in the U.S.In announcing its proposed takeover last April, the Vatican accused the nuns of embracing a “radical feminism” that questions church teachings and focuses too much on social justice causes. Farrell says the American sisters are simply doing what the gospel requires, often speaking on behalf of so many in the church who have no one else to advocate for them.The high-profile confrontation will reach another crucial pass next week (Aug. 7-10) when LCWR members gather in St. Louis to develop a formal response to the Vatican’s plans. Options run the gamut from complying with all of Rome’s directives (unlikely) to decertifying the group and re-establishing it outside of the pope’s control (a possibility).
Posted by David Gibson 42 weeks 4 days ago
The Obama administration’s policy requiring most employers to provide free birth control coverage in their health insurance policies takes effect on Aug. 1 — a deadline that has sparked apocalyptic warnings from conservative activists and some faith groups.“August 1st is a day that will live in infamy for the First Amendment and the fundamental freedoms and rights we as a people have enjoyed since the founding of our nation,” said Brent Bozell, head of ForAmerica. “With the stroke of a pen, the Obama Administration has shredded the First Amendment and the Constitution right before our eyes.”“August 1st will be remembered as the day our most cherished liberty was thrown in a government dumpster and hauled away,” echoed Matt Smith, head of Catholic Advocate. And that’s just a sampling of the outrage.Are the claims legitimate? As with most federal regulations, it’s complicated, and the supercharged politics of the issue, in the midst of a presidential campaign, don’t help.Moreover, religious freedom is by its nature a topic that prompts heated debates — without always providing a clear answer.
Posted by David Gibson 42 weeks 5 days ago
A Catholic priest has suggested that Satan may have driven accused killer James Holmes to open fire at a Colorado cinema, continuing the religious debate over a shooting that claimed 12 lives and wounded 58 more. “Was he demon possessed? Maybe. It happens,” the Rev. Dwight Longenecker wrote on Patheos, where the Catholic priest from Greenville, S.C., is a columnist.Religious leaders and public figures have sparked some of the most heated discussions in the wake of the tragedy as they have offered various explanations for the violent outburst and spiritual guidance for dealing with it.
Posted by David Gibson 43 weeks 3 days ago
NEW YORK — So who is the funniest Catholic in the Western world: New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan or Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert?It's a tough call for anyone who has followed either man's impressive record of rim shots, but we may finally get an answer to that urgent question when the cardinal and the comedian team up for a panel on faith and humor this September at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y.“I’m looking forward to a great conversation with a terrific theologian and a gifted comedian. They are both,” quipped the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and popular author. Martin will be moderating the Sept. 14 event, titled “The Cardinal and Colbert: Humor, Joy, and the Spiritual Life.”Martin’s recent book, Between Heaven and Mirth, explores the relationship between humor and faith, and the priest said that the panel wouldn’t be just a couple of Catholic tummlers yukking it up for the audience – or distracting the public from the many controversial stories about the church.“This is just what the Catholic Church needs,” said Martin, who has been on The Colbert Report so many times that he is called the official chaplain of the Emmy-winning news parody program. “Being joyful does not mean that you overlook suffering or pain or even scandal.”
Posted by David Gibson 43 weeks 4 days ago
Monsignor William J. Lynn, the first U.S. Catholic official convicted for covering up the sexual abuse of children, was sentenced to 3-6 years in prison on Tuesday.Lynn, 61, has been in jail since his June 22 conviction on endangering the welfare of a child. Prosecutors were seeking the maximum penalty, up to seven years.“You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong,” said Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina.Sarmina told Lynn that he enabled “monsters in clerical garb … to destroy the souls of children, to whom you turned a hard heart.”Lynn was head of priest personnel for a dozen years and was one of the highest-ranking officials in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Posted by David Gibson 43 weeks 5 days ago
Of all the controversies that have followed in the bloody wake of the July 20 shooting rampage in Aurora, Colo., few have provided such a clarifying insight into the moral tensions and contradictions in American culture than the argument over whether gun control is a religious issue.The Rev. James Martin, a popular author and Jesuit priest, was among the first to set out the terms of the debate, when he penned a column at America magazine arguing that gun control “is as much of a ‘life issue’ or a ‘pro-life issue’ … as is abortion, euthanasia, or the death penalty (all of which I am against), and programs that provide the poor with the same access to basic human needs as the wealthy.”Martin’s central point was that abortion opponents spare no effort to try to shut down abortion clinics or to change laws to limit or ban abortions, so clearly believers should be committed to taking practical steps to restrict access to guns.“Simply praying, ‘God, never let this happen again’ is insufficient for the person who believes that God gave us the intelligence to bring about lasting change,” Martin wrote. “It would be as if one passed a homeless person and said to oneself, ‘God, please help that poor man,’ when all along you could have helped him yourself.”
Posted by David Gibson 44 weeks 2 days ago
Wheaton College, Billy Graham’s alma mater and a top evangelical school, joined Catholic groups in a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate even as a federal judge’s ruling clouded prospects for such actions.Wheaton, located west of Chicago, filed the suit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C., joining Catholic University of America, which launched its suit two months ago. The University of Notre Dame and dozens of other religious organizations, mainly Catholic, have also filed suits in federal courts around the country to overturn the mandate. Wheaton is represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a legal advocacy group that has spearheaded many of the challenges to the policy, which will require most employer health insurance plans to provide birth control coverage.The mandate, issued by the Health and Human Services Department, goes into effect on Aug. 1, but most religious organizations have a year’s grace period while they try to work out an acceptable accommodation with the administration.
Posted by David Gibson 44 weeks 3 days ago
The conservative Family Research Council has named a former top Delta Force commando and outspoken culture warrior, retired Army Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, to run its day-to-day operations.Boykin’s appointment as executive vice president of the FRC, a mainstay of the Christian right, is designed in part to highlight conservative opposition to President Obama’s military policies, particularly his decision last year to repeal the Pentagon’s ban against gays and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces.“The Obama administration has undermined our nation's security and increased the risk to those who serve by systematically using our nation's military to advance a liberal social agenda,” FRC President Tony Perkins said in announcing Boykin’s appointment on July 16.
Posted by David Gibson 47 weeks 1 day ago
Religious groups and social conservatives are reacting to the Supreme's Court's historic ruling that largely upholds President Obama's health care law, the Affordable Care Act. Sr. Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA):"We are pleased that, based on an initial read of the ruling, the ACA has been found constitutional and will remain in effect. CHA has long supported health reform that expands access and coverage to everyone. We signed onto amicus briefs encouraging the Court to find in favor of the ACA’s individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion. As the ruling is examined, Catholic-sponsored health care providers will continue to lead health care transformation — finding new and better ways to provide compassionate, high-quality care while strengthening the communities we serve."The Catholic Bishops of the United States urged Congress and President Obama to repair, not replace, the health care law so that it covers immigrants, includes stronger conscience protections, and ensures that it will not fund abortions -- something the law specifically bars:"Following enactment of ACA, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has not joined in efforts to repeal the law in its entirety, and we do not do so today.The decision of the Supreme Court neither diminishes the moral imperative to ensure decent health care for all, nor eliminates the need to correct the fundamental flaws described above.We therefore continue to urge Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, legislation to fix those flaws."
Posted by David Gibson 47 weeks 5 days ago
A popular online advice columnist has said that the late Rev. Robert Drinan, a famed Jesuit priest and onetime Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, tried to kiss and fondle her in the 1970s when she was 18 or 19 years old.Emily Yoffe, who writes Slate’s “Dear Prudence” column, said she was prompted to write her first-person account after reading coverage of the trial of Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach who is charged with raping and molesting 10 boys.
Posted by David Gibson 48 weeks 4 days ago
Relations between the Vatican and the American nuns who are under investigation seem to be worsening after the sisters said on June 18 that initial discussions with Rome about a resolution to their standoff were “difficult” and that comments by several U.S. bishops have not made negotiations easier.The statement by the board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, as well as subsequent remarks by the nun who heads the LCWR, may herald a longer and broader struggle inside the church.“We have never considered ourselves in any way unfaithful to the church, but if questioning is interpreted as defiance, that puts us in a very difficult position,” Sister Pat Farrell, head of the LCWR, said in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter on Monday.
Posted by David Gibson 48 weeks 5 days ago
In an unexpected blow to the Obama administration and a major boon for America's Catholic bishops, the influential Catholic Health Association on June 15 rejected White House proposals aimed at easing faith-based objections to the contraception mandate.“The more we learn, the more it appears that the … approaches for both insured and self-insured plans would be unduly cumbersome and would be unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns of all of our members and other Church ministries,” Sister Carol Keehan and leaders of the CHA said in a five-page response to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Posted by David Gibson 49 weeks 2 days ago
Amid continuing headlines about cover-ups of child abuse in the Catholic Church, an oversight board of lay Catholics on June 13 warned the nation’s bishops that they must follow their own policies against abuse more rigorously if they hope to restore their fragile credibility.“If there is anything that needs to be disclosed in a diocese, it needs to be disclosed now,” Al J. Notzon III, head of the bishops’ National Review Board, told some 200 prelates gathered in Atlanta for their annual spring meeting. “No one can no longer claim they didn’t know.”The meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops comes 10 years after the hierarchy met in Dallas and passed a series of reforms to respond to a siege of bad publicity about sex abuse by priests. It also comes as a jury in Philadelphia weighs the fate of a high-ranking priest who's facing criminal charges of concealing abuse by clerics, and as a bishop from Missouri awaits trial on charges that he failed to report a suspected child molester to authorities.
Posted by David Gibson 49 weeks 4 days ago
A coalition of nearly 150 religious leaders, led by conservative Protestants, have petitioned the Obama administration to broaden the exemption that allows churches and some religious organizations to avoid a controversial new mandate that all health care insurers provide free contraception coverage.In a letter sent Monday (June 11) to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the 149 religious leaders note that they hold differing views on “the moral acceptability” of birth control and on the viability of various administration proposals to allow faith-based groups to bypass the mandate for contraception and sterilization coverage.But they said they share a strong objection to the language that defines which "religious" groups are eligible for an exemption, saying the definition creates a “two-class system” of religious groups: churches, which qualify under the wording of the exemption, and “faith-based service organizations,” which may or may not qualify.
Posted by David Gibson 50 weeks 2 days ago
When the nation’s Catholic bishops gather in Atlanta next week (June 13-15) for their annual spring meeting, a top agenda item will be assessing the reforms they adopted 10 years ago as revelations of widespread sexual abuse of children by priests consumed the church.The policy package they approved at that 2002 meeting in Dallas was known as the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, or the Dallas charter, for short. With it, the bishops vowed to finally put an end to the abuse and secrecy. They also pledged to help raise awareness about the plague of child abuse in society.But is anything different – in the church or in the country — 10 years later? Here’s a look at what has changed, and what has not.
Posted by David Gibson 50 weeks 4 days ago
Nearly lost amid ongoing reports about the Vatican leaks scandal, Rome’s battle with American nuns, the American bishops’ battle for religious freedom, and the priest on trial in Philadelphia, was the news that, by the way, Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit Philadelphia.Benedict made the announcement at the end of his visit to Milan on June 3 for the church’s triennial World Meeting of Families. The next meeting would be in Philadelphia in 2015, he said, and he planned to be there, “God willing.”True, the trip won’t happen until 2015, and it may well not happen at all — Benedict would be 88 by then. Even if there's a new pope in 2015, the City of Brotherly Love is still almost assured of getting a papal visit — new popes like to underscore continuity, and respect the plans their predecessors had in place.In a larger sense, the visit would be about more than promoting family life, and in many ways it's related to other Catholic issues now dominating the headlines. Here’s why.
Posted by David Gibson 51 weeks 1 day ago
A top Southern Baptist official who was accused of plagiarism in a radio segment that claimed civil rights leaders and President Obama used the Trayvon Martin case to stir racial tensions will lose his weekly call-in program but can keep his main job, a church panel announced Friday.Richard Land, the influential head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the denomination’s top policy spokesman, was rebuked for racial insensitivity and for not attributing the source of his radio commentaries after a review by ERLC trustees.The controversy over Land’s explosive remarks in a March 31 radio program was especially awkward as Southern Baptists are expected to elect an African-American pastor, the Rev. Fred Luter, as the denomination's first black president later this month.The investigators chided Land for “his hurtful, irresponsible, insensitive, and racially charged words” in a broadcast of the “Richard Land Live!” show in which Land accused Obama and black civil rights activists of using the Trayvon Martin shooting to foment racial strife and boost the president’s re-election chances.
Posted by David Gibson 51 weeks 1 day ago
Leaders representing most of the nation’s 57,000 Catholic nuns on Friday (June 1) answered a Vatican crackdown on their group by charging that Rome’s criticisms of the sisters were “unsubstantiated,” caused “scandal and pain” and “greater polarization” in the church.“Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission,” the 22-member board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious warned in a statement issued after a special four-day meeting in Washington.The LCWR board meeting followed the surprise announcement in April that Pope Benedict XVI wanted a Vatican-led makeover of the group on the grounds that it was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.Rome also chided the LCWR for doctrinal ambiguity and sponsoring conferences that featured “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”The unexpectedly strong pushback to the Vatican may be an indication of how much backlash the campaign has sparked among Catholics, who value the sisters’ longstanding ministry in education, health care and social services, and who bristle at Rome's demands to focus instead on sexual morality and enforcing orthodoxy.
Posted by David Gibson 51 weeks 2 days ago
Social conservatives on Thursday reacted sharply to a federal appeals court ruling that declared the law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage unconstitutional.The First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges are "intent on imposing their liberal, elitist views of marriage on the American people,” Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.In its unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel said the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, deprives same-sex couples the same rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples. The decision sets up a likely showdown in the Supreme Court and provides another culture war issue for the already contentious presidential campaign.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 2 days ago
The wave of lawsuits filed this week by more than 40 Catholic groups against the Obama administration’s birth control mandate was meant as a demonstration of church unity and influence in the face of what some bishops see as a grave threat to the church’s very existence.But the strategy has also exposed serious fault lines within the U.S. hierarchy, as some leaders are privately and even openly questioning the legal and political ramifications of the bishops’ latest battle with the White House. The first public sign of the internal split came on Tuesday (May 22), a day after 43 Catholic dioceses, universities and other church institutions filed a dozen lawsuits around the country seeking to overturn a policy from t
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 3 days ago
Dozens of Catholic universities, dioceses and other institutions filed lawsuits in courts around the country on Monday in a coordinated effort, spearheaded by the U.S. hierarchy and Catholic conservatives, to overturn the Obama administration’s contraception mandate plan.The 43 plaintiffs, which include 13 dioceses and the University of Notre Dame, say the mandate forces religious employers to provide contraceptive and sterilization services to employees that violate their beliefs. They say that infringes on First Amendment religious freedom protections, and charge that the federal government’s exemption for religious organizations is too narrow.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 1 week ago
Tensions between the Archdiocese of Washington and Georgetown University are escalating ahead of an address on Friday (May 18) by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a conflict that is becoming a microcosm of the political battles raging inside the Catholic Church.Sebelius, a Catholic whose support for abortion rights and President Obama’s contraception insurance mandate has infuriated bishops and conservative Catholics, was chosen last fall by students at Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute to deliver a speech at the school’s annual awards ceremony on commencement weekend.The event will be one of Georgetown’s 18 awards programs this weekend – there are 10 other official commencement ceremonies – and Sebelius will not receive an honorary degree.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 1 week ago
President Obama’s recent endorsement of same-sex marriage opened a torrent of speculation on what his newly enunciated position will mean politically, but the latest polls indicate the public largely backs his views and that his stance may not hurt him at the ballot box.A Gallup poll in early May showed that by a 54-42 percent margin, American adults consider gay and lesbian relations “morally acceptable.” The level of approval has grown steadily since 2002, when it stood at 38 percent, so much so that Gallup considers the current situation “the new normal” in U.S. public opinion.Another Gallup survey taken on May 10, a day after Obama announced his “evolution” in thinking on gay marriage, showed that 60 percent of Americans said it would make no difference in how they will vote in November, while 13 percent said it would make them more likely to vote for him and 26 percent said it would make them less likely to vote for him.
Posted by David Gibson 1 year 2 weeks ago
The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are reviewing the church’s long-standing ties to the Girl Scouts of the USA after complaints that some of that venerable organization’s programs might contradict church teachings on contraception and abortion.The inquiry by the Catholic bishops has been ongoing for two years and was prompted by persistent reports, circulated on the Internet and by some social conservatives, that the Girl Scouts of the USA has ties to Planned Parenthood or, for example, endorses material on sexuality that the church would not approve.