Catholics

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Does Pope Francis have a position on the Dakota Access Pipeline?

That’s one question he hasn’t been asked, and he might demur if pressed on such a specific issue. But in his landmark encyclical on the environment published last year, and in other statements, Francis has strongly supported arguments of the Native American-led resistance movement on three core issues: indigenous rights, water rights and protection of creation.

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“The picture is mixed,” said Besheer Mohamed, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center who specializes in religion.

“On the one hand, its seems clear that Muslims are a pretty small part of the population. On the other hand, they are concentrated in some states and metro areas that might increase their voting powers in those specific areas.”

Gay Clark Jennings 11-15-2016

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I fear now, as I have feared for months, the impact of his presidency on vulnerable people — including the white and working-class voters in places like my home state of Ohio who lent him their support.

Christians always have disagreements about policy proposals or party platforms during election seasons. But this year, I wonder how white Christians who read the same Scriptures and hold many of the same beliefs that I do could support a man who in word and deed has flaunted the core teachings of our faith.

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In an interview conducted on Nov. 7, on the eve of the election, and published Friday by an Italian daily, the Argentine pope declined to make any judgment about Trump.

“I do not judge people or politicians,” the pope told Eugenio Scalfari of La Repubblica when asked what he thought of Trump. “I only want to understand what suffering their behavior causes to the poor and the excluded.”

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In the summer of 430, the great Christian writer and bishop Augustine of Hippo lay dying as barbarians besieged his North African city – basically a mop-up operation in the slow-motion fall of the Roman Empire.

Today, in the fall of the year 2016, a lot of Christians can relate.

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They are many, shift between parties, and typically side with the candidate who ends up winning the White House.

That’s what makes Catholics the ultimate swing voters in the U.S. And this year they are going to throw their weight behind Democrat Hillary Clinton, a panel of political analysts said on Oct. 31.

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The strongest earthquake to strike Italy in more than three decades claimed no lives, but struck at the heart of the country’s vast religious and cultural heritage.

The Oct. 30 quake, which measured 6.6 magnitude according to the U.S. Geological Survey, was stronger than the one that killed almost 300 people on Aug. 24, and it struck a region already shaken by tremors last week.

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In 2013, Francis provoked an outcry from economic conservatives with the release of his apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel),” which was widely seen as his personal manifesto. In it, Francis said the world could no longer trust “the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market,” and called for ecclesiastical renewal and compassion for the poor.

Cox, who taught at Harvard for 50 years, dedicated his latest book to the pope because they share a concern about what Francis called a “deified market” that’s creating “new idols.”

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Catholics can be cremated under certain conditions, the Vatican has said, but loved ones should not scatter the ashes at sea, or on land, or into the wind, nor should they keep them in mementos or jewelry.

Instead, say new guidelines released on Oct. 25, the remains should be stored “in a sacred place” that “prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten” and “prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices.”

the Web Editors 10-19-2016

A poll by PRRI, published Oct. 19, shows that 72 percent of white evangelical Protestants now believe that immoral behavior by an elected official doesn’t mean the official is incapable of performing their duties. This is a vast increase from the year 2011, when only 30 percent of white evangelical Protestants shared this view.

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In the two decades since his death from a heart attack at age 64, Nouwen’s popularity and influence have spawned at least five biographies. His reflections on faith, loneliness, vulnerability, love, prayer, social justice, and sexuality have won over modern audiences.

But this beloved priest had an even more intimate side, known only to those who corresponded with him privately.

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“I think there are a lot of nones who miss singing in the choir, who would love to go into a building and hear a moving speech, but the minute someone starts talking about the Bible they check out. It no longer feels applicable to them. That’s a big challenge to the church.”

Both politicians spoke of how their families and their Catholic faith, in small personal moments, in joy and in tragedy, had inspired and informed their decades of political service.

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Overall, 67 percent of Americans and 90 percent of U.S. Catholics hold a favorable view of the pope.

“Americans embrace Pope Francis as a celebrity — even when they don’t know what he thinks or does,” said Robert Jones, president and CEO of PRRI.

Many attached glowing traits to Francis. Asked to describe him in their own words, most just identified him by his role as pope or other neutral terms, but 27 percent chose positive terms, calling him “humble,” “compassionate” and “caring.”

The majority share his top priorities — on concern for the poor, the environment, and the economy. But the flock veers from the shepherd on doctrine, particularly on sexuality and marriage.

David Gushee 08-19-2015

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A LifeWay Research survey released last week on the morality of divorce found that for most Americans, the reason an individual initiates divorce doesn’t matter in terms of how they morally evaluate the rightness or wrongness of that divorce. Pastors, though, still tend to draw moral distinctions between reasons for divorce.

Based on years of research on Christian tradition as it pertains to marriage and divorce, I can tell you what this finding means. The answer is not especially pretty: Routine divorce is now inevitable in American culture, including among religious people — with one possible exception.

Let’s take this problem apart.

the Web Editors 08-03-2015
T photography / Shutterstock.com

Central Park aerial view in Manhattan, New York. Photo via T photography / Shutterstock.com

In March 2015, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) conducted a general survey on American religious affiliation, irrespective of geographic setting. According to that survey, the three largest religious groups in the United States are Catholics (22 percent), the religiously unaffiliated (22 percent), and white evangelical Protestants (18 percent).

But what religious groups dominate in urban centers? And in which cities do certain religious groups dominate?

St Roch Church in the Staten Island borough of New York. Photo via Gregory A. Shemitz / RNS

The United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago.

That’s the top finding – one that will ricochet through American faith, culture, and politics – in the Pew Research Center’s newest report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” released May 12.

This trend “is big, it’s broad, and it’s everywhere,” said Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religion research.

the Web Editors 02-27-2015

1. PHOTOS: Painter Immortalized Last Meals of 600 Prisoners Put to Death

Artist Julie Green collects information published in death-row inmates’ death notices about their last moments. She then puts cobalt blue paint to porcelain plates to illustrate their final meals — from pizza and birthday cake to Jolly Ranchers. Her goal: “to continue paining fifty plates a year until capital punishment is abolished.”

2. Net Neutrality Victory Is Civil Rights History in the Making

“Today’s civil rights activists have a much more powerful tool at our disposal – the open Internet. Our ability to be heard, counted, and visible in this democracy now depends on an open Internet, because it allows voices and ideas to spread based on their quality – not the amount of money behind them.”

3. WATCH: It Turns Out Lighting Affects Color

And lots of other things, actually. If you’re still hashing it out with your roommates or spouse about the color of #TheDress, here’s science (and music!) to the rescue. (Team #whiteandgold!) Also, if you need more science, you can always ask Science Mike, who offers this great video explainer.

4. Activists Warn of End of Christian Presence in Middle East

Following ISIS’ kidnapping of at least 90 Assyrian Christians in an attack on about 35 mostly Assyrian settlements, groups in the region warn that we may be witnessing the end of Christian presence in the region: “After the Iraq war of 2003, and since the Syrian crisis began, the persecution unleashed on them – including extortion, kidnappings, murder, the ethnic cleansing of entire swaths of Baghdad, the Nineveh plains, and now much of north-east Syria, has been so vast that their very existence in their ancestral homelands is in grave peril.”

5. In 23 States, the Largest Religious Group Is Now ‘Unaffiliated’

This, according to Public Religion Research Institute’s just-released American Values Atlas, which breaks down various religious and political demographics. Find out the largest religious group in your state at the link!

6. WATCH: Jim Inhofe’s Snowball Has Disproven Climate Change Once and For All

That one time a United States senator — the one who also happens to be the chairman of the environment committee — threw a snowball while on the floor to dispute climate change. Because snow. 

7. An Anti-ISIS Summit in Mecca

“Whether ISIS’s deeds are labeled ‘violent extremism’ or ‘Islamized terrorism,’ the conversations in Washington and Mecca had at least one thing in common: They deepened the debate over whether ISIS and its fellow travelers are ‘Islamic,’ and whether the answer matters in the first place. That debate is not just academic. It has real consequences for how the Islamic State’s opponents mount their counteroffensive.”

8. VIDEO: Banksy Goes Undercover in Gaza, Releases MIni-Documentary

The unidentified street artist Banksy has re-emerged in Gaza to create a political mini-documentary about life inside the war-torn region.

9. Why We Must Change How We Change the World

World Relief President and CEO Stephan Bauman’s new book Possible: A Blueprint for Changing How We Change the World is now out. In this piece, he lays out why he is hopeful about the future of efforts to address injustice: “We are caught in a vicious cycle, a dangerous dynamic that shapes our views about the people who experience suffering. As a result, those trapped in poverty are dehumanized and poverty is dumbed down while good, well-intended people really believe they are caring, world-conscious, and ethical. But change is coming.” 

10. 10 Things Catholics Are Tired of Hearing

Why do you worship statues? Why do you pray to Mary instead of God? And more confusion in the Protestant understanding of Catholicism. Handy to bookmark for the next inevitable conversation about the purpose of confession or the Apocrypha. 

Photo by Adelle Banks/RNS

Nicole Been of Chicago receives ashes during “Ashes to Go” in Washington, D.C. Photo by Adelle Banks/RNS

Chances are you’ll see a bunch of folks walking around with shmutz on their foreheads this Wednesday. The ‘Splainer asks what having a dirty forehead has to do with being a Christian and why this ritual is gaining in popularity.

Q: Excuse me, but why do you have dirt on your forehead?

A: Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the day many Christians mark as the first day of Lent, the time of reflection and penitence leading up to Easter Sunday. Clergy all over the world dispense ashes, usually made by burning the palm fronds distributed on last year’s Palm Sunday, making the sign of the cross on the bowed foreheads before them. As they “impose” or “dispense” the ashes, the pastor or priest reminds each Christian of Genesis 3:19: “For dust you are and to dust you shall return.”

Q: Well, that’s cheerful. Why would anyone want to start a workday on such a downer?

A: It isn’t intended to be a downer. It’s supposed to be a reminder that our lives are short and we must live them to the fullest. OK, maybe it’s a little bit of a downer — that verse from Genesis is what God said to Adam and Eve when he expelled them from the Garden of Eden for their sins. But there’s a big party the night before Ash Wednesday. That’s Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” a secular observance that evolved out of “Shrove Tuesday,” the last hurrah – usually marked by eating of pancakes or other sinfully sweet foods – before the solemnity and penance of Lent set in.

“Barbie” and “Ken” figurines on display in Berlin. Photo courtesy of 360b via Shutterstock/RNS.

Barbie has had a number of careers in her 55 years — flight attendant, veterinarian, astronaut, even president. Her latest role, however, is raising eyebrows.

Italy’s Catholic bishops are furious about controversial artistic depictions of the popular Barbie and Ken dolls as the Virgin Mary and a crucified Jesus Christ and other saints.

Two Argentinian artists, Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini, produced 33 dolls of various religious figures for a show named “Barbie, The Plastic Religion,” which opens in Buenos Aires on Oct. 11.

SIR, an Italian website backed by the Italian bishops conference, denounced the controversial toys in an editorial, which asks: ” What is the difference between provocation and bad taste?”

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