Cardinal Timothy Dolan Cuts Ties with Anti-Abortion Crusader Frank Pavone

Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

Rev. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, left, leads a prayer in front of the Supreme Court. Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

In the latest clash between the Catholic hierarchy and one of the church’s leading anti-abortion crusaders, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan accused the Rev. Frank Pavone of continuing to stonewall on financial reforms, and Dolan said he is cutting ties with his group, Priests for Life.

In a Nov. 20 letter to other U.S. bishops, Dolan said he did not know if the Vatican would now step in to take action against the New York-based priest, who for years has angered various bishops by rejecting oversight of the organization by church authorities and for refusing to sort out his group’s troubled finances.

“My requests of Father Pavone were clear and simple: one, that Priests for Life undergo a forensic audit; two, that a new, independent board be established to provide oversight and accountability,” Dolan wrote in the letter, which was first reported by Catholic World News.

“Although Father Pavone initially assured me of his support, he did not cooperate. Frequent requests that he do so went unheeded. I finally asked him to comply by October 1st. He did not,” Dolan wrote.

Dolan, who had been asked by the Vatican to help Pavone restructure Priests for Life, said in the letter that he has informed Rome that “I am unable to fulfill their mandate, and want nothing further to do with the organization.”

Pope Francis Urges Europeans to Reject ‘Throwaway Culture’

Pope Francis holds his pectoral cross. Photo via Paul Haring / Catholic News Service / RNS.

The 77-year-old pontiff is well-known for his attacks on consumerism and for his compassion for the poor. More recently, Francis has turned his attention to bioethics issues, describing abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and euthanasia as “playing with life” and “a sin against God.”

But this was the first time he has delivered his message on the floor of the parliament of the European Union, which represents 500 million people across 28 countries.

As the first non-European pope to hold the office in almost 1,300 years, Francis also appeared less willing to continue the Roman Catholic Church’s traditionally unconditional support for the EU.

As the impact of the stifling economic crisis is being felt in European countries like France and Italy, Francis attacked the EU for a dearth of leadership, saying its ideals had become weighed down by bureaucracy.

“The great ideals that inspired Europe seem to have lost their power of attraction, in favor of the bureaucratic, technical emphasis of its institutions,” the pope said.

Is California Forcing Churches to Pay for Abortions?

Loyola Marymount University’s Sunken Garden and Sacred Heart Chapel. Photo via Mishigaki via Wikimedia Commons/RNS.

Religious groups are battling the state of California over whether employee health insurance plans require them to pay for abortions and some forms of contraception that some find immoral.

So is the state forcing churches to pay for abortions? It depends on who you ask.

The issue gained traction after Michelle Rouillard, director of the California Department of Managed Health Care, sent a letter to Anthem Blue Cross and several other insurance firms in August warning providers that state law requires insurers to not deny woman abortions. “Thus, all health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally,” she wrote.

Rouillard wrote that state law provides an exemption for religious institutions.

“Although health plans are required to cover legal abortions, no individual health care provider, religiously sponsored health carrier, or health care facility may be required by law or contract in any circumstance to participate in the provision of or payment for a specific service if they object to doing so for reason of conscience or religion,” she wrote.

“No person may be discriminated against in employment or professional privileges because of such objection.”

However, two legal groups have filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, alleging the California rule puts faith-based organizations in a position to violate their conscience.

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If there is one thing that most Christians of all denominations agree on, it is abortion. A 2012 Gallup poll found that 54% of American Catholics and 57% of Protestants/Others consider themselves “pro-life.” Every presidential election, we hear of prominent pastors raising questions about a candidate’s position on abortion. And while organizations such as Sojourners have tried to emphasize additional issues which ought to concern Christians as they go to the polls, the reality is that abortion is still a central issue for many people. This is not altogether a bad thing; since the earliest days of Christianity, the church has always had a special concern for unborn and abandoned children, taking them in and caring for them when others do not. These days, however, whether or not it is an accurate portrayal, “pro-life” Christians are more associated with picketing abortion clinics, hanging pictures of dead fetuses in public places, and gathering for the March for Life than welcoming such children into their homes.

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Pastors, considering themselves not equipped to respond, often fail to address domestic and sexual violence appropriately, according to a June 19 IMA World Health report. Seventy-five percent of Protestant pastors underestimate the amount of violence occurring in their communities and rarely speak out about the issue, according to a LifeWay survey, but 80 percent said they would take action if they had the resources.

Forget Republican or Democrat: Americans Divide by Their Values

The divide from a question asked in a new Pew Research Center report. RNS image courtesy Bill Webster/Pew Research Center.

Toss out the party and ideology labels: Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal.

The Pew Research Center’s new survey, “ Beyond Red VS Blue: The Political Typology,” finds no sharp lines dividing people by their views on politics, faith, family, and the role and limits of government.

“It’s a spectrum,” said Michael Dimock, vice president for research for Pew Research Center.

Looking at questions relating to faith and family, he observed, “the caricature that all religious people are Republican is just not true.”

Black and Hispanic political liberals who attend church and hold conservative views on issues such as gay marriage hew red on social issues.

Hispanic Catholics Differ with Evangelicals — and with the Church

“2013 Religious Affiliation of Hispanics” graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center’s look at “The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States” also examined their beliefs, behavior, and views on social issues. It finds that, beyond the church doors in the lives of the faithful, there are distinct differences between Hispanic evangelicals and Hispanic Catholics:

Catholics are less likely than evangelicals to:

  • Attend services weekly — Catholic, 40 percent; evangelical, 71 percent
  • Pray daily — Catholic, 61 percent; evangelical, 84 percent
  • Take a literal view of the Bible — Catholic, 45 percent; evangelical, 63 percent
  • Think abortion should be illegal in all/most cases — Catholic, 54 percent; evangelical, 70 percent

Pope Francis Broaches a Rare Topic: Abortion

Pope Francis leads Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in 2013. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy Catholic News Service/RNS

Pope Francis reiterated his strong opposition to abortion on Friday, saying it “compounds the grief of many women” already succumbing to what he called the “pressures of secular culture.”

The pope’s remarks, to a group of bishops from South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland, represented a departure of sorts for Francis, who has kept a relative silence on the issue as he tries to redirect the church’s energies toward combating poverty and income inequality.

Francis expressed concern about the challenges the African bishops faced in their communities, from abortion and divorce to violence against women and children.

Sex and the Never-Ending Christian Adolescence

Young couple in love, Kseniia Perminova / Shutterstock.com

Young couple in love, Kseniia Perminova / Shutterstock.com

I don’t know about young girls, but I know from experience that young boys obsess about sex.

They crave it, fantasize about it, do everything in their meager power to obtain it, worry about their adequacy, get confused by their longings, and for the duration of adolescence — and often beyond — see people in terms of “getting laid.”

I suppose this obsession is natural, and that it serves some fundamental purpose, such as perpetuating the species or giving us something to think about besides our gangly bodies, weird thoughts, and being young and insecure.

I don’t know any adult who would willingly repeat adolescence. Yet here we are — we Christians seeking hope, grace, mercy, and purpose, we believers in a God of justice — treating our faith as an endless adolescence centered around sex.

Can Pope Francis Help 'Reset' Frayed Ties Between Obama and the Catholic Bishops?

Pope Francis greets a crowd on his way to a meeting with cardinals at the Vatican on Feb. 21, 2014. RNS photo by David Gibson.

When President Obama and Pope Francis sit down at the Vatican on Thursday, the meeting may well offer a vision of what could have been for Democrats and the Catholic Church over the last six years: a leader of the state and a leader of the church working on the many issues where they agree while working through the issues where they don’t.

Of course, that’s not exactly how it’s gone for Obama and the U.S. hierarchy, even though Obama and the church both stress economic justice and the priority of the common good, universal health care, robust government support for the needy and comprehensive immigration reform.

The potential for a robust alliance fizzled almost from the start of Obama’s candidacy in 2007, and a relationship that began badly went downhill when he was elected.