The nation’s Catholic bishops are calling on the faithful to pray and mobilize in a “great national campaign” to confront what they see as a series of threats to religious freedom, and they are setting aside the two weeks before July 4 for their “Fortnight for Freedom” initiative.
The exhortation is contained in a 12-page statement released Wednesday (April 12) by the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, and its chief concern is the Obama administration’s proposal to provide contraception coverage to all employees with health insurance, including those who work for religious groups.
The statement represents the hierarchy’s latest effort to overturn that policy, and it includes an explicit threat of widespread civil disobedience by the nation’s 67 million Catholics.
Pope Benedict XVI ended his three-day visit to Cuba on Wednesday (March 28) with an appeal for more religious freedom for the Catholic Church, ahead of a highly anticipated meeting with the island's historic leader, Fidel Castro.
And while he stopped short of openly criticizing the island's communist regime during the trip, Benedict nonetheless said Cuba needed "change" and a "renewed and open society."
The pope celebrated Mass on Wednesday in Havana's Revolution Square for about 300,000 people, according to the Vatican's top spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
Cuban President Raul Castro was in attendance and joined in the crowd's applause when the pope entered the stage.
Pope Benedict XVI’s 3-day visit to Cuba began Monday, when President Raul Castro greeted the pontiff at the airport of Santiago de Cuba. The arrival was fairly quiet, but the evening Mass in Santiago’s plaza was attended by an estimated 200,000 Cubans. The pope's long-awaited visit attracted news coverage from around the world, mostly focusing in the pope’s message.
Emmanuel shows up on our front porch about once a week. His name means “God with us,” but if there’s anyone on the planet who appears to have been forgotten by the Divine, It’s him. He stands at about 5’4″ and has maybe a handful of teeth left. when he speaks, I catch about half of what he says, but there’s a childish innocence in his eyes that betrays the years of hard living he has endured since then.
Sometimes he offers to do work; sometimes he asks for food. Usually he just wants money. I’ve written before about my struggles with this, as the controlling side of me wants to have a hand in how he spends “my” money. This particular day, he’s looking for fifteen dollars for rent.
“I told you you had to get clean before I’d give you any money man,” I shook my head. “I can give you some food.”
“I’m clean, sir, I’m clean,” he always calls me that, even though he’s nine years older than I am. He was speaking more clearly than usual and his eyes were unusually bright. “Come with me sir. If you’ll drive me to the Catholic Woman’s house, she’ll tell you I’m clean.”
VATICAN CITY--Two weeks before Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to touch down in Cuba, a small group of protesters occupied a church in central Havana, asking that a message with their requests be delivered directly to the pope.
Their action was swiftly condemned by church authorities as "illegitimate and irresponsible." The group remained in the church for two days, and only left Thursday (March 15) after being assured by a top church leader that they could return home without police interference.
The episode illustrates the challenges that Benedict will find in Cuba during a March 23-29 trip that will also include a stop in Mexico. But it also highlights the good relationship that the Catholic Church has built in recent years with the island's communist regime.
The trip will be the pontiff's second visit to Latin America, which is home to almost half of the world's Catholics. Benedict visited Brazil in 2007.
During his trip, the pope will meet political leaders from both countries and, according to the Vatican's top spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, he might even have a brief encounter with longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro, though it is not on the official agenda yet.
ST. LOUIS--Wading into sensitive church-state territory, a Missouri judge has ruled in favor of an independent-minded Catholic church that claims ownership of its property and autonomy from the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Judge Bryan Hettenbach's 50-page ruling in favor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church is unusual for the strong interjection of a civil court into internal church matters.
In a statement, St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson promised to appeal the judge's opinion "all the way to the Supreme Court."
Hettenbach was careful to point out in his ruling that civil courts have no business wading into theological or ecclesiastical issues, or interpreting church law.
But he also acknowledged that the case brought by the archdiocese had given him no choice but to grapple with the Catholic Church's internal canon laws.
St. Stanislaus' lawyers believe Hettenbach succeeded. On Thursday (March 15), Richard Scherrer, one of the church's attorneys called the judge's opinion "unassailable," and a "correct finding of law."
A Catholic priest who was pulled from ministry after a furor over denying Communion to a lesbian at her mother's funeral insists he did the right thing and criticized the Washington archdiocese for disciplining him.
"I did the only thing a faithful Catholic priest could do in such an awkward situation, quietly, with no intention to hurt or embarrass," the Rev. Marcel Guarnizo said of his decision to withhold Communion from Barbara Johnson during a Feb. 25 funeral Mass for Johnson's mother.
Guarnizo, who issued a statement to conservative Catholic news outlets on Wednesday (March 14), explained that he left the altar for a few minutes during the funeral and did not accompany the family to the cemetery because a migraine attack had left him "incapacitated."
While both sides offer differing accounts, Guarnizo said he learned moments before the funeral at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md., that Johnson was a lesbian and was attending the Mass with her partner. Guarnizo refused Johnson Communion when she approached the altar during the liturgy.
A Catholic priest who allegedly denied Communion to a lesbian at her mother's funeral has been put on leave pending an investigation of unrelated "intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others," the Archdiocese of Washington said.
The Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, a priest from Moscow who has been serving in the archdiocese since last March, lost his assignment at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md., on Friday (March 9).
Guarnizo made headlines when Barbara Johnson, a lesbian attending her mother's funeral at the church, said he denied her Communion. At the time, the archdiocese said "issues regarding the suitability of an individual to receive Communion should be addressed by the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting."
Guarnizo's removal is related to other issues and not the Communion incident, a diocesan spokeswoman said. The archdiocese said an official had received "credible allegations" of Guarnizo's behavior that were considered "incompatible with proper priestly ministry."
VATICAN CITY — Despite differences over women's ordination and a controversial Vatican initiative to woo back disgruntled Anglicans, Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will pray together in Rome on Saturday (March 10).
The heads of the Roman Catholic Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion will celebrate vespers to mark the 1,000th anniversary of the Camaldoli monastery in Italy, which is revered by both Catholics and Anglicans.
Benedict and Williams are scheduled to have a private meeting on Saturday morning.
Strapped for cash and staff, Rick Santorum has enlisted a ragtag but politically potent army to keep his campaign afloat: home-schoolers.
Heading into today's Super Tuesday, Santorum was urging home-schoolers to organize rallies, post favorable features on social media and ring doorbells on his behalf.
"Santorum has been very aggressive in reaching out to the home-schooling community, especially in the last month," said Rebecca Keliher, the CEO and publisher of Home Educating Family Publishing.
Drawing on his experience as a home-schooling father of seven, the former Pennsylvania senator has also sought to rally enthusiasm by pledging to continue that course in the White House.
"It's a great sacrifice that my wife, Karen, and I have made to try to give what we think is the best possible opportunity for our children to be successful," Santorum said during a March 1 campaign stop in Georgia. "Not just economically, but in a whole lot of other areas that we think are important — virtue and character and spirituality."
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.
VATICAN CITY — On the eve of his elevation to cardinal, New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan said he would like to change the caricature of his city as a modern-day Gomorrah.
"New York seems to have an innate interest and respect for religion and I'm going to bring that up because I don't like that caricature that New York is some neo-Sodom and Gomorrah," Dolan told Reuters after celebrating Mass here on Friday (Feb. 17).
"I have found the New York community to be very religious and innately respectful of religion, interested in religion," he said.
There likely was little Sabbath-ing for politicians and journalists this weekend, as the debate over health policy raged across the campaign trail and in the television studios.
In a fiery comment piece in The Los Angeles Times, David Horsey reported that at CPAC, Mitt Romney pledged that he would “reverse every single Obama regulation that attacks our religious liberty and threatens innocent human life in this country.”
Speaking on Face The Nation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that the contraception controversy is an issue of religious freedom.
Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum laid out his position on the situation very clearly on Meet The Press.
President Obama on Friday said that all insurers — not all religious institutions — will be required to offer free contraceptive services to women.
Here's what people are saying about it:
"We’ve been mindful that there’s another principle at stake here –- and that’s the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution. As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right."
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
“Today’s decision to revise how individuals obtain services that are morally objectionable to religious entities and people of faith is a first step in the right direction. We hope to work with the Administration to guarantee that Americans’ consciences and our religious freedom are not harmed by these regulations.”
Family Research Council:
"Liberals say keep your morals out of the bedroom, yet the President's plan forces everyone to pay the cost for someone else's contraceptive use in the bedroom. That's not freedom, it's a mandate."
The Obama Administration announced earlier today a change to its policy regarding conscience exemptions and contraception coverage for faith based organizations.
Sojourners released the following statement:
We applaud the Obama Administration’s decision to respond to the concerns of many in the faith community around respecting religious liberty. This compromise respects the conscience concerns of those persons and institutions opposed to the use of contraception while still allowing greater access to those services for women who seek it. Expanded access to contraception is important for women’s health and is a key part of our country’s efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies and thereby reduce abortions.
A letter from Alec Hill, President of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA to Intervarsity Staff
Last month, the Federal government mandated that Catholic universities, hospitals and charities must provide – and pay for – contraceptives to their employees and students. The mandate may also — depending upon interpretation – include the provision of sterilization services and the morning-after pill. (There appears to be some disagreement amongst scholars regarding the potential scope of the new Health and Human Service mandate.)
Why should I care? I am not Catholic. Nor do I agree with Catholic teaching on contraception, though I do have grave concerns about the morning-after pill.
Politically, I am a moderate and hence not prone to condemn every governmental edict.
I care because this matter touches upon the religious freedom of us all. I care because InterVarsity is engaged in a parallel struggle. Over the past 18 months, our status as a recognized student organization has been challenged on 41 campuses.
Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus is a true Internet phenomenon, garnering more than 18 million views and sparking a global debate.
As with most internet phenomena, the viral video has given birth to dozens of similar videos from folks around the world, each adding a different (sometimes serious, sometimes not) perspective to the debates.
Whilst none has had quite the same impact as the original in terms of millions of hits, clicks and media coverage, there are conversation starters aplenty in many of these intriguing (and entertaining) videos.
See a roundup of some of the most interesting responses inside the blog...
When Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney released his federal tax returns for the past two years, he disclosed that he and his wife, Ann, gave about 10 percent of their income to their church, a well-known religious practice called tithing.
In that way, the Romneys are typical Mormons, members of a church that is exceptionally serious about the Old Testament mandate to give away one-tenth of one's income.
But compared to other religious Americans, the Romneys and other Mormons are fairly atypical when it comes to passing the plate. Across the rest of the religious landscape, tithing is often preached but rarely realized.
Research into church donations shows a wide range of giving, with Mormons among the most generous relative to income, followed by conservative Christians, mainline Protestants and Catholics last.
Over the past 34 years, Americans' generosity to all churches has been in steady decline, in good times and in bad, said Sylvia Ronsvalle, whose Illinois-based Empty Tomb Inc. tracks donations to Protestant churches.
Ronsvalle's research shows that since 1968, contributions have slowly slumped from 3.11 percent of income to 2.38 percent, despite gains in prosperity.
In her view, churches have failed "to call people to invest in a much larger vision." She believes that explains why giving to missions, distant anti-poverty programs or faraway ministries has sunk faster than giving for the needs of local congregations.
During her brief career as star of stage and screen in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Dolores Hart won a Theater World Award, was nominated for a Tony Award and gave Elvis Presley his first on-screen kiss (in the 1957 film Loving You) when she was just 19 years old.
Now 73-year-old Hart — better known for most of the last 40 years as Mother Dolores, Prioress of the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn. — has a new claim to fame: Oscar nominee.
Last week, God is the Bigger Elvis, a short documentary film about her journey from Hollywood starlet to cloistered Catholic nun, received an Academy Award nomination for best short documentary film.
One of the U.S. Constitution's difficult balances is found in the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”
What happens when those two values conflict?
That is the issue with the controversy over whether religiously-affiliated organizations should be required to offer free coverage for contraception in health insurance plans made available to employees. Those opposed — most notably Catholic organizations — claim that this requirement would violate their freedom of conscience. Those who support it claim that exempting religiously-affiliated organizations would establish a religion over the rights of individuals.