David Gibson is an award-winning religion journalist, author, filmmaker, and a convert to Catholicism. He came by all those vocations by accident, or Providence, during a longer-than-expected sojourn in Rome in the 1980s.
Gibson began his journalistic career as a walk-on sports editor and columnist at The International Courier, a tiny daily in Rome serving Italy's English-language community. He then found work as a newscaster across the Tiber at Vatican Radio, an entity he sees as a cross between NPR and Armed Forces Radio for the pope. The Jesuits who ran the radio were charitable enough to hire Gibson even though he had no radio background, could not pronounce the name "Karol Wojtyla" (go ahead -- try it) and wasn't Catholic --- at the time.
When Gibson returned to the United States in 1990 he returned to print journalism to cover the religion beat in his native New Jersey for two dailies and to write for leading magazines and newspapers in the New York area. Among other journalism prizes, Gibson has won the Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year Award, the top honor for journalists covering religion in the secular press, and has twice won the top prize writing on religion from the American Academy of Religion.
Gibson currently writes for Religion News Service and until recently was covering the religion beat for AOL's Politics Daily. He blogs at Commonweal magazine, and has written two books on Catholic topics, the latest a biography of Pope Benedict XVI. He would like to write another -- but can’t seem to find the time.
He has co-written documentaries on early Christian and Jewish history for CNN, and recently worked on a March 2011 History Channel special on the Vatican. He currently has several other film projects in development. Gibson has written for leading newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, Boston magazine, Fortune, Commonweal, America and, yes, The Ladies Home Journal.
Gibson is a longtime member of the Religion Newswriters Association. He and his wife and daughter live in Brooklyn.
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Santorum Shows the Religious Right isn’t Dead Yet
Does Rick Santorum's Southern surge also herald the return of the Religious Right?
Last January, the titans of Christian conservatism were widely dismissed as irrelevant, at best, after 150 of them gathered for an evangelical "conclave" at a Texas ranch and anointed Rick Santorum as their champion -- only to see him finish third in rock-ribbed South Carolina a week later, well behind Newt Gingrich and even their least-loved candidate, Mitt Romney.
Now, however, with Santorum on an roll after big primary wins on Tuesday (March 13) in Alabama and Mississippi, those born-again bigwigs and their allies may be having the last laugh.
"People have been writing the obituary of the pro-family, evangelical movement for 25 years -- and they're always wrong," said Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and the architect of the Christian Coalition in the 1980s.
Bishop Hopes to Restart White House Contraception Talks
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The Catholic bishop leading the push against the White House's contraception mandate says the bishops hope to restart contentious talks with the Obama administration, but cautioned that church leaders "have gotten mixed signals from the administration" and the situation "is very fluid."
Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who chairs the religious liberty committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Religion News Service that Catholics have to stay united if the hierarchy is to have any chance of prevailing in negotiations with the White House.
Ever since President Obama bowed to growing pressure and shifted the mandate to provide contraception mandate to insurance companies and away from religious employers, the White House has been hosting talks with various religious groups about a plan to modify the regulation.
Catholic institutions like hospitals, universities and social service agencies are most directly affected by the regulation because they are the biggest faith-based employers. They have also been much more amenable to the Obama accommodation than have the bishops.
Many bishops are upset with Catholic groups that have dealt independently with the administration, and some have also accused the administration of trying to divide the church.
Bishops Face Internal Challenges in Contraception Battle
In the weeks since President Obama proposed a compromise on his plan to mandate free contraception coverage, the nation's Catholic bishops have appeared unified and galvanized in their thorough rejection of the accommodation.
For the hierarchy, it's been an invigorating change after years of playing defense during the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
"What (Obama) offered was next to nothing," a confident New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service.
Other prominent churchmen were even more derisive. They blasted Obama's olive branch of having insurers -- rather than employers like Catholic hospitals and universities -- pay for birth control coverage under a separate policy as an "accounting gimmick."
White House Insists Contraception Talks are on Track
The Obama administration is rejecting charges by the nation's top Catholic bishop that talks to modify a controversial birth control mandate are "going nowhere" because of alleged White House intransigence and efforts to diminish the central role of the bishops.
"The White House has put nearly every issue requested by the bishops on the table for discussion and has sought the views of bishops on resolving difficult policy problems, only to be rebuffed," an administration official close to the negotiations said Tuesday (March 6).
The official was not authorized to speak publicly on the negotiations and requested anonymity to speak candidly about the sensitive talks.
Catholic Voter Guide Differs From Two Catholic Candidates
A group of Democratic-leaning Catholics on Wednesday (Feb. 29) released a 2012 voter guide that seeks to expand the concept of "pro-life issues" beyond abortion to also include war, euthanasia and poverty.
The nine-page guide from the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good — one of the first to be released for the 2012 elections — highlights economic issues as top concerns Catholics should weigh as they consider their vote.
The guide is markedly different from others circulated by conservative Catholic groups, which stress opposition to abortion rights as a non-negotiable stance for American Catholics.
Re-Branding Religion: A Fool's Errand?
NEW YORK — Did leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention hurt their missionary cause by opting not to change the denomination's name to something a bit more, well, marketable?
Maybe, but as the advertising executives of Madison Avenue here could attest, as tempting as it is to try to solve a missionary slump with a marketing campaign, religious groups — like commercial businesses — should think twice before undergoing a brand overhaul.
After months of deliberations, an SBC task force on Feb. 20 recommended against trying to re-brand the denomination, an idea that has been bandied about for more than a century.
Proponents of a change made a good case: for a denomination that was born in 1845 out of a defense of slavery, the name has since saddled Southern Baptists with a problematic name and historical baggage.
News Analysis: Bishops’ Contraception Objections Fail the Church's Own Moral Reasoning
The president's plan meant that religious employers — mainly Catholic universities, hospitals and social service agencies — would not be involved in paying for or administering something they deem sinful: contraception. At the same time, all employees would still have access to the same contraception benefit, no matter whom they work for.
Critics of the president's plan, however, didn't see it that way.
"Dangerous and insulting," a group of leading Catholic bishops wrote to their fellow churchmen. "A cheap accounting trick," Robert P. George, Mary Ann Glendon and several other leading culture warriors complained in an open letter that has generated more than 100 signers.
The "compromise," said New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, "asks the parties involved to compromise their reasoning faculties and play a game of 'let's pretend' instead."
Yet that "game," as Douthat put it, is actually a venerable tradition in Catholic moral theology that for centuries has provided a way for Christians to think about acting virtuously in a fallen world.
BREAKING NEWS: Obama Exempts Religious Groups from Contraceptive Mandate
Facing growing furor from religious groups, President Obama on Friday unveiled an "accommodation" in which health insurance companies, rather than religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals and universities, will provide employees with contraception coverage.
Houses of worship remain exempt, and the new approach effectively removes all faith-based organizations from involvement in providing contraceptive coverage or even telling employees how to find such coverage. It also maintains Obama's pledge to ensure that almost all women with health insurance will not have to pay for it.
At issue was a mandate, part of Obama's 2009 health-care overhaul, that employers provide free birth-control coverage. The mandate was announced Jan. 20 by Health & Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Religious groups, particularly Catholic, fiercly objected, saying the federal government should not force institutions to violate the tenets of their faith. Womens' advocates argued that employees should have access to birth control regardless of where they work.
News Analysis: 5 Reasons Why Obama is Losing the Contraception Fight
The White House has surprised observers and disappointed some liberal allies by signaling that it is willing to compromise and provide a broader religious exemption in its controversial regulations requiring all employers to provide free contraception coverage.
Given that birth control use is almost universal — even among Catholics — many wonder why the Obama administration could wind up retreating on its pledge.
Here are five reasons that may help explain the political dynamic the president is facing:
1. It's about religious freedom, not birth control
Poll: Americans support contraception coverage, divided over religious exemptions
A majority of Americans — including Catholics — believe that employers should be required to provide employee health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost, according to a new survey.
But the research by the Public Religion Polling Institute shows that when it comes to providing religious exemptions from free contraceptive coverage – something the White House is sharply criticized for failing to do – the public is much more divided.
The Catholic bishops have slammed the Obama administration in recent weeks, urging priests to read letters from the pulpit blasting a new Health & Human Services rule that will require some Catholic institutions, such as universities, to cover employees' contraceptive costs.
On Monday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued "Six Things Everyone Should Know About the HHS Mandate." Included on the list was, "Catholics of all political persuasions are unified in their opposition to the mandate."
The survey released today, however, paints a more nuanced picture.