Catholic Hospitals at Odds with Bishops Over Birth Control Mandate

Photo by Susan Biddle/courtesy Catholic Health Association

Carol Keehan, head of Catholic Health Association on August 20, 2012. Photo by Susan Biddle/courtesy Catholic Health Association

The organization representing Catholic hospitals across the country says it no longer objects to the Obama administration’s mandate that all employees receive free birth control coverage.

The decision by the Catholic Health Association puts the hospitals at odds with the Catholic hierarchy, which last week rejected the White House’s final regulations on an issue that many church conservatives view as evidence of the administration’s hostility to Catholicism and religious freedom.

Sister Carol Keehan, head of the CHA, disagreed. “If you look at the final regulations it is very clear that we do not have to contract for, or pay for, or arrange for” contraception coverage, Keehan said in an interview on Tuesday.

“It was really important that this be workable from a legal and theological perspective,” she added. “That’s what we believe we have achieved.”

Catholic Justice and Peace Commission Intervenes on the Recruitment of Christian Arabs into Israeli Army

The Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission of the Holy Land led by Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah has issued a statement against attempts by the Israeli Defense Force to begin conscripting Christian Muslims into the military, saying "the use of army service to divide the Arab population against itself is detrimental to the interests of the Arabs as a community." According to Agenzia Fides:
...The army is used as "an institution that promotes social cohesion" and a "principal place" of forming national consciousness and participating in the nation building project "as conceived by the authorities, i.e. promoting Israel as a Jewish national state". In this perspective, according to the Justice and Peace commisssion operating in the Holy Land, "talk about drafting of Christian Arabs rather than the Arabs in general - Muslims and Christians - is clearly an attempt to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims in Israel". On addressing these delicate problems, the Church should keep in mind that "the army is used as a means of imposing and maintaining the occupation of Palestinian territories and thus preventing Palestinians from achieving dignity and independence". The army is primarily "an army of aggression rather than an army of defense". Therefore "the use of army service to divide the Arab population against itself is detrimental to the interests of the Arabs as a community."

4 Things Religious Conservatives Might Do After High Court Rulings:

Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

Couple celebrates outside Supreme Court. Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

The twin Supreme Court rulings on Wednesday that further opened the door for gay marriage in the U.S. were not entirely unexpected, and the condemnations from religious conservatives angry at the verdicts were certainly no surprise either.

So the real question is what gay marriage opponents will do now.

Here are four possible scenarios that took shape in the wake of Wednesday’s developments:

My Country ’Tis of Thee: Evangelicals Score Highest on Patriotism

Photo courtesy RNS/

God Bless America sign on a chalkboard with vintage American flag. Photo courtesy RNS/

When it comes to God and country, white evangelicals report the strongest levels of patriotic feelings in a new poll, with more than two-thirds (68 percent) saying they are extremely proud to be an American.

That figure was markedly higher than for white mainline Protestants (56 percent), minority Christians (49 percent), Catholics (48 percent) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (39 percent), according to the study, conducted by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service.

White evangelicals are also more likely than any other religious group surveyed to believe that God has granted the U.S. a special role in history (84 percent) and to say they will likely attend a public July 4th celebration (62 percent).

Mother Dolores Hart, from Kissing Elvis to Joining the Convent

Photo courtesy RNS/Globe photos.

Dolores Hart and Elvis Presley in “Loving You.” Photo courtesy RNS/Globe photos.

The way fans reacted to Dolores Hart’s decision to become a cloistered nun, you might have thought the movie star had announced her intention to kill herself.

Even close friends and family could not fathom why this Grace Kelly look-alike, who gave Elvis his first on-screen kiss and had her pick of acting jobs, would stow herself away in a nunnery for the rest of her life.

As if to test her resolve in those weeks before she left Hollywood, Universal Studios offered her a role opposite Marlon Brando, a role she turned down shortly after she broke off her engagement to Don Robinson, a kind and handsome businessman who loved her intensely.

Pope Francis: Wasting Food is like Stealing from the Poor

On Wednesday during his weekly address, Pope Francis condemned consumerism and the "culture of waste" especially pertaining to food. Wednesday was also the day the United Nations launched an anti-food waste campaign to mark World Environment Day. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organizatio estimates 1.3 billion tons of food are lost or wasted every year. The Washington Post reports:

“Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry,” he said during his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Read more here.

Catholic Rocker Matt Maher Finds Cross-Over Appeal Among Evangelicals

Photo courtesy Matt Maher

Catholic artist Matt Maher. Photo courtesy Matt Maher

Growing up Roman Catholic in Newfoundland, Matt Maher never imagined that his childhood interest in music would lead to a career as a Grammy-nominated, chart-topping Christian rocker — let alone a crossover artist featured on Christian radio and in evangelical worship.

After he stopped going to Mass as a freshman in high school, Maher wasn’t even sure about his own faith. The idea of maintaining a personal relationship to God seemed a foreign concept.

“Where I grew up, evangelical Christianity really hadn’t made any strides,” said Maher, now 38, describing the mainline religious culture of his wind-swept Canadian homeland.

Listen to any of his catchy, guitar-driven pop-rock anthems, such as his new single, “Lord, I Need You,” and it’s clear God is never far from Maher’s mind these days.

Catholic Population Surges Across the Global South


VATICAN CITY — Gains in Asia and Africa are making up for losses in Europe among the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, according to Vatican statistics released Monday, signaling a shift of the church’s center of gravity toward the Global South that was heralded by the election of the first Latin American pope.

Data published in the 2013 Statistical Yearbook of the Church also show that while the number of priests in the Americas and in Europe is declining compared to the overall Catholic population, those losses were offset by increasing ranks of permanent deacons.

There are now about 41,000 permanent deacons worldwide, a 40 percent increase over the past decade. The vast majority of them — 97.4 percent — live in the Americas or in Europe.

New & Noteworthy

A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher by Sue Halpern / Kinship Across Borders: A Christian Ethic of Immigration by Kristin E. Heyer / Skipping Stones / In the Footprints of Francis and the Sultan: A Model for Peacemaking

Photo: Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Julie Polter is Senior Associate Editor at Sojourners.