Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service

Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for Religion News Service, specializing in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality, and ethics.

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Lots of God Talk as GOP Contenders Prep for Debate

Image via Lucy Nicholson / REUTERS / RNS

Oct. 28 is the third debate for the Republicans, and since their last stage appearance, several have been ringing the religious liberty bell from one primary state to the next.

CNBC, which is hosting this debate, says the focus will be on economic issues when the mikes turn on at Coors Events Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

But that doesn’t mean God talk will be muted. Didn’t Pope Francis just sweep through, telling U.S. leaders about the moral dimensions of public policy?

Sister Joan Chittister, the Dissident Nun, Shares Her Secret Life

Sister Joan Chittister, center, in Chiapas, Mexico. Image via Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Penn. / RNS

Veteran Catholic writer Tom Roberts thought he knew Sister Joan Chittister — the maverick Benedictine nun who dares speak her mind to her church.

He didn’t.

When Roberts, editor at large for the National Catholic Reporter, went to interview her three years ago in Erie, Pa., at the community where she entered religious life at age 16, a secret she’s held for a lifetime came to light.

Do You Think Science and Religion Conflict? Probably Not, if You're Highly Religious

Image via Pew Research Center / RNS

Most Americans see a conflict between the findings of science and the teachings of religion.

But “see” is the operative word in a new Pew Research Center report issued Oct. 22.

Examining perceptions leads to some unexpected findings.

While 59 percent of U.S. adults say they saw science and religion in conflict, that drops to 30 percent when people are asked about their own religious beliefs.

It turns out that the most highly religious were least likely to see conflict.

Will Democrats Play the God Card at Their Debate?

Image via REUTERS / RNS

Democratic contenders in the 2016 presidential election take their turn at the debate lecterns Oct. 13, and it’s anyone’s guess if it will be a battle of contesting moral visions or a policy snooze-fest.

Under the CNN stage lights: social-gospel Methodist Hillary Rodham Clinton; secular Jew Bernie Sanders; loud and proud Catholic Martin O’Malley; and two Protestant men who rarely speak from the faith angle — Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee.

View of Catholic Church Improved After Pope Francis' Visit

Image via Pew Research Center / RNS

Pope Francis’ first U.S. visit gave his already-high favorability ratings only a modest bounce with most Americans — and no bounce at all among Catholics.

Yet his three-city September tour — from Congress to the United Nations and from cathedrals to a prison — generated significant goodwill toward the Catholic Church, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

Pew’s survey, conducted just days after the pope returned to Rome, was released Oct. 7 and offers a snapshot of his initial impact.

The top finding: “Four times as many U.S. adults say their opinion of the Catholic Church is better now because of Pope Francis as people who say their impression has gotten worse,” said Greg Smith, associate director of research and co-author of the report.

Religious or Not, Many Americans See a Creator's Hand

Image via LifeWay Research / RNS

You don’t have to believe in God or identify with any religion to see a creator’s hand in human life and morality, suggests a new survey.

LifeWay Research’s overall finding — that most Americans believe there is a creator who designed the universe and defines human morality — is not surprising. After all, 3 in 4 U.S. adults identify with a religious denomination.

The surprise is that so many people who don’t identify with a religion — so-called nones — agree.

California Governor Faces Final Call on Right-to-Die Bill

Image via Compassion & Choices / RNS

California Gov. Jerry Brown has until midnight Oct. 7 to sign or veto a controversial bill that would legalize physician-assisted dying in the nation’s most populous state.

Both supporters of the bill, who say it fosters “death with dignity,” and opponents, who call it legalized suicide, urge calls to the governor’s office and prayers to the Almighty while they wait out the clock.

And both sides expect this decision is a tough call for Brown.

Pope Francis' Words on Abuse Vary by His Audience

Image via Dado Ruvic / Reuters / RNS

On his first full day of the visit, Francis praised U.S. bishops for their “courage” in facing the difficult moments of the explosive clergy abuse scandal “without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice.”

Listeners, however, were shocked, mindful that the church has spent hundreds of millions in settlement payouts — often after years of protracted legal fights — to compensate for decades of bishops who protected, even promoted, abusive priests.

He sounded “tone-deaf,” said Vatican expert the Rev. Thomas Reese.

Pope Francis Embraces Washington’s Hungry: ‘No Justification for Homelessness’


Pope Francis visits with homeless who are served meals by Catholic charities, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Pool / RNS

Pope Francis went straight from charging the U.S. Congress to care for the neediest to blessing and encouraging Washington’s hungry and homeless on Sept. 24.

Still, Francis, wearing his cross showing a shepherd and his flock, carried a political message along with his pastoral mission.

“The Son of God came into this world as a homeless person,” he told staff and clients of Catholic Charities, at St. Patrick’s in the City’s ministry to the needy.

The Ashley Madison Hack Points a Theologian Toward Grace

Image via /Shutterstock

The Ashley Madison hack — the public release of emails of wannabe adulterers — has now ensnared a theologian with a famous name in some Christian circles.

Robert Craig Sproul Jr., best known by his first initials, stepped up Aug. 31 to face his sorrow — and teach a lesson in God’s grace in the process.