Catholic

Catholic Bishops Issue Rallying Cry for ‘Religious Freedom’

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Protestors gather to oppose requiring insurance coverage for contraception. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

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 Meets with Fidel Castro, Urges More Freedom

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Pope Benedict XVI waves after celebrating a mass at Revolution Square in Havana on March 28. JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images

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 in Cuba: A Media Round-up

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Pope Benedict XVI with Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana on Tuesday. ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

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. 

Walking a Mile with a Meth Head

Photo by Heike Pototschnigg /Shutterstock.com
Photo by Heike Pototschnigg / Shutterstock.com

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.”

Pope to Find Challenges, Opportunities in Cuba

Cathedral of San Cristobal, Pedro Salaverría, Shutterstock.com
Cathedral of San Cristobal, Pedro Salaverría, Shutterstock.com

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.

Judge Rules for Breakaway Church in St. Louis

Judge's gavel, Kuzma, Shutterstock.com
Judge's gavel, Kuzma, Shutterstock.com

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."

Priest Defends Denying Communion to Lesbian

Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Barbara Johnson was denied communion at her monther's funeral. Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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.

Priest Who Denied Communion to Lesbian Put on Leave

Communion photo, tarczas, Shutterstock.com.
Communion photo, tarczas, Shutterstock.com.

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."

Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop of Canterbury to Meet

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Pope Benedict XVI waves from his papamobile, arriving for his weekly audience on March 7. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

Santorum's Secret Army: Home-Schoolers

Girl working on math homework. Image by Cheryl Casey/Shutterstock.com.
Girl working on math homework. Image by Cheryl Casey/Shutterstock.com.

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."

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