Catholics

Catholic Hospitals Reject Obama’s Birth Control Compromise

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

In an unexpected blow to the Obama administration and a major boon for America's Catholic bishops, the influential Catholic Health Association on June 15 rejected White House proposals aimed at easing faith-based objections to the contraception mandate.

“The more we learn, the more it appears that the … approaches for both insured and self-insured plans would be unduly cumbersome and would be unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns of all of our members and other Church ministries,” Sister Carol Keehan and leaders of the CHA said in a five-page response to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Catholic Bishops Told to Follow Their Own Policies Against Sexual Abuse

Priest image, Alistair Cotton / Shutterstock.com

Priest image, Alistair Cotton / Shutterstock.com

Amid continuing headlines about cover-ups of child abuse in the Catholic Church, an oversight board of lay Catholics on June 13 warned the nation’s bishops that they must follow their own policies against abuse more rigorously if they hope to restore their fragile credibility.

“If there is anything that needs to be disclosed in a diocese, it needs to be disclosed now,” Al J. Notzon III, head of the bishops’ National Review Board, told some 200 prelates gathered in Atlanta for their annual spring meeting. “No one can no longer claim they didn’t know.”

The meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops comes 10 years after the hierarchy met in Dallas and passed a series of reforms to respond to a siege of bad publicity about sex abuse by priests. It also comes as a jury in Philadelphia weighs the fate of a high-ranking priest who's facing criminal charges of concealing abuse by clerics, and as a bishop from Missouri awaits trial on charges that he failed to report a suspected child molester to authorities.

Philadelphia Trial Revives Catholic Church Sex Abuse Scandal

Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Pedestrian walks past the Archdiocese of Philadelphia headquarters. Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Ten years ago, the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal dominated the headlines with horrific stories of priests preying on vulnerable youths and a church hierarchy more concerned with protecting clergy instead of kids.

Now, it's back. A Philadelphia jury is deliberating whether, for the first time, a high-ranking church official will be held criminally accountable.

However the jury rules, the case carries symbolic freight far heavier than the grim details in the trial of Monsignor William Lynn, former secretary for the clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It revives the breadth and depth of the abuse crisis, its extraordinary costs and unending frustrations.

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.

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