Gotham is No Gomorrah: New York's New Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Photo by Getty Images.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York hugs an American journalist outside St. Peter's Basilica Saturday. Photo by Getty Images.

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.

The "War on Religion" and the Contraception Debate

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.

What They're Saying About the Contraception Compromise

Birth control pills. Image via Wiki Commons,

Birth control pills. Image via Wiki Commons,

President Obama on Friday said that all insurers — not all religious institutionswill be required to offer free contraceptive services to women.

Here's what people are saying about it:

President Obama:

"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."

Sojourners' Statement on Obama Administration's Contraception Policy Change

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.

At Stake: Religious Liberty

Alec Hill. Image via

Alec Hill. Image via

A letter from Alec Hill, President of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA to Intervarsity Staff

I’m upset.

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.

Follow the Meme: "Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus" Copycats and Responders

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...

Yes, Mormons Tithe, But Most Others Don't

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.

Mother Dolores Hart: God is Bigger than Elvis

Mother Dolores Hart, as Hollywood starlet and after. Photos by Getty Images.

Mother Dolores Hart, as Hollywood starlet and after. Photos by Getty Images.

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.

We Must Protect Conscience from War

Conscientious objectors rally in Germany. Image via Getty Images.

Peace activists support Iraq war veteran and now conscientious objector Agustin Aguayo. Photo by Getty Images.

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.