Catholics

Catholics Rally Around Nuns Amid Vatican Crackdown

Photo   © 2009   L.C. Nøttaasen , Flickr

Photo © 2009 L.C. Nøttaasen , Flickr

Catholics around the U.S. are coming together for prayer vigils as a show of support for America's nuns, whom the Vatican accuses of having "serious doctrinal problems."

The Wednesday (May 30) vigil at St. Colman Catholic Church in Cleveland follows a Vatican move last month to intervene and reform the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization that represents the leaders of most U.S. nuns.

Similar rallies have already been held or are planned from Anchorage, Alaska to Boston, organized by the loose-knit Nun Justice Project, a coalition of lay reform groups.

The Vatican scolded the LCWR for making statements that "disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals."

The crackdown has caused an uproar among some Catholics, sparking dozens of vigils in cities across the country.

Catholics See Rallying Cry for ‘Religious Freedom’ in ‘For Greater Glory’

The film shows a burning crucifix, gun-toting priests and the torture of a young boy. And the Roman Catholic hierarchy is loving it.

The film, “For Greater Glory,” hits theaters on June 1 and tells a little known chapter of Mexican history -- the Cristero War of 1926 to 1929, which pitted an army of devout Catholic rebels (led in the movie by Andy Garcia) against the government of Mexican President Plutarco Calles (played by Ruben Blades).

For Catholics enraged by the Obama administration’s proposed contraception mandate, the film about the Mexican church's fight in 1920s is a heartening and timely cinematic boost in the American church's battle to preserve "religious freedom" in 2012.

D.C. Archdiocese, Georgetown University Spar Over Kathleen Sebelius Speech

RNS photo courtesy The Department of Labor/Flickr

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a press briefing. RNS photo courtesy The Department of Labor/Flickr

Tensions between the Archdiocese of Washington and Georgetown University are escalating ahead of an address on Friday (May 18) by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a conflict that is becoming a microcosm of the political battles raging inside the Catholic Church.

Sebelius, a Catholic whose support for abortion rights and President Obama’s contraception insurance mandate has infuriated bishops and conservative Catholics, was chosen last fall by students at Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute to deliver a speech at the school’s annual awards ceremony on commencement weekend.

The event will be one of Georgetown’s 18 awards programs this weekend – there are 10 other official commencement ceremonies – and Sebelius will not receive an honorary degree.

Rallying Around the Sisters

Group of a nuns photo, SVLuma / Shutterstock.com

Group of a nuns photo, SVLuma / Shutterstock.com

Two months ago, I went to the Maryknoll motherhouse, a massive stone building in Ossining, N.Y., to interview 93-year-old Sister Madeleine Dorsey for a book I am writing. This was a sister who had chosen to stay with the poor in El Salvador after the 1980 murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero.  A few months later, she found the bodies of her murdered sisters buried in a shallow grave.

She was willing to risk her life, she said, "to help the poor rise up and know themselves as children of God."

So when I heard that the Vatican had ordered a crackdown on the largest umbrella group of U.S. sisters, accusing them of spending too much time "promoting issues of social justice," I was stunned. Perhaps I shouldn't have been, given Rome's historic failure to support its best and brightest.

Georgetown Faculty Challenge Ryan Budget

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) on March 27. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Paul Ryan is slated to speak at Georgetown University on Thursday morning. In the lead up, a group of professors and administrators is joining the chorus taking Ryan to task for claiming his budget proposal falls in line with Catholic teaching.

“Our problem with Representative Ryan is that he claims his budget is based on Catholic social teaching,” said Jesuit Father Thomas J. Reese, one of the organizers of the letter. “This is nonsense. As scholars, we want to join the Catholic bishops in pointing out that his budget has a devastating impact on programs for the poor.”

Is Pope Ratzinger Suffering From the Seven-Year Itch?

VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims in St. Peter's square on April 18. VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

As Pope Benedict XVI marked his seventh anniversary as pope on Thursday (April 19), many Catholics were wondering if the pontiff is finally becoming the papal enforcer that some feared – and others hoped – he would be when he was elected to lead the church in 2005.

The questions were prompted by this week’s announcement that Benedict had signed off on a crackdown on the organization representing most of the 57,000 nuns in the United States, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.

But does this latest move indicate that the man once known as the Grand Inquisitor is returning to form, or that a new wave of dissent is emerging?

Catholic Leaders Say Rep. Paul Ryan Distorting Church Teaching

In response to Rep. Paul Ryan’s recent comments justifying the Republican budget plan on Catholic grounds, 60 prominent Catholic leaders today released a statement saying his claims “profoundly distort” Catholic teaching.

“Simply put, this budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good,” the statement reads. “A budget that turns its back on the hungry, the elderly and the sick while giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest few can’t be justified in Christian terms.”

John Gehring, Catholic Outreach Coordinator at Faith in Public Life, believes Ryan’s beliefs are skewed.

“This budget turns centuries of Catholic social teaching on its head,” Gehring said in a news release. “These Catholic leaders and many Catholics in the pews are tired of faith being misused to bless an immoral agenda.”

Read the full statement and signatories HERE.

White House Proposal Gives Religious Groups More Say in Birth Control Mandate

RNS photo courtesy Pete Souza / The White House.

President Barack Obama talks with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. RNS photo courtesy Pete Souza / The White House.

The Obama administration is offering to expand the number of faith-based groups that can be exempt from the controversial contraception mandate, and proposing that third-party companies administer coverage for self-insured faith-based groups at no cost.

At its heart, the newest offering from the White House would allow religious groups -- dioceses, denominations and others -- to decide which affiliated institutions are "religious" and therefore exempt from the new requirement that employers offer free contraception coverage as part of employee insurance plans.

The proposals are an effort by the administration to blunt criticisms of the controversial regulation, especially by the nation's Catholic bishops, who have been at loggerheads with the White House since President Obama announced the contraception mandate in January.

Poll: Catholics Don’t See Contraception Mandate as Threat to Religious Freedom

Crucifix photo, jcjgphotography, Shutterstock.com

Crucifix photo, jcjgphotography, Shutterstock.com

WASHINGTON--A vocal contingent of Republican presidential candidates and church leaders are railing against the Obama administration's ``war on religion,'' but most Americans can't seem to find the fight.

A majority (56 percent) of Americans say religious liberty is not threatened in the U.S., according to a new poll released Thursday (March 15) by the Public Religion Research Institute, which conducted the survey in partnership with Religion News Service.

The poll, which asked a wide range of questions, also found significant support for same-sex marriage.

Even though Catholic bishops are leading the charge that the new White House mandate requiring insurance plans to cover birth control for employees is a threat to religious liberty, Catholics reject -- by a 57 to 38 percent margin -- the idea that religious liberty is under siege.

News Analysis: 5 Reasons Why Obama is Losing the Contraception Fight

Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama listens at the National Prayer Breakfast 2/2/12. Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images

The White House has surprised observers and disappointed some liberal allies by signaling that it is willing to compromise and provide a broader religious exemption in its controversial regulations requiring all employers to provide free contraception coverage.

Given that birth control use is almost universal — even among Catholics — many wonder why the Obama administration could wind up retreating on its pledge.

Here are five reasons that may help explain the political dynamic the president is facing:

1. It's about religious freedom, not birth control

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