Catholics

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

New Poll: Majority of White Evangelicals Oppose Cutting Federal Programs that help the Poor

Source: Public Religion Research Institute, PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, Novem
Source: Public Religion Research Institute, PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, November 2011 (N=1,002)

A new poll released this morning by Public Religion Research Institute shows the American public has clear ideas about what steps political leaders should take to reduce the federal deficit.

The poll shows that a majority of white evangelicals are opposed to cutting federal anti-poverty programs for the poor and nearly three-quarters of white evangelicals oppose cutting funding for religious organizations that help the poor.

The poll, based on a survey of 1,002 American adults performed November 10 -14, also shows a nation divided both by political affiliation and generation when it comes to attitudes towards Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party.

The survey found that nearly 7-in-10 (68 percent) of Americans say that in order to reduce the deficit, it’s fair to ask wealthier Americans to pay a greater percentage in taxes than the middle class or those less well off.

Boo! It's Jesus!: Halloween and Evangelization

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Is Halloween a prime time for evangelism?

Are religious tracks passed out along with (or in lieu of) "treats" really the best way to spread the gospel message?

Or do the roots and practices of Halloween run so deeply counter to Christian tradition that Halloween is best ignored by believers?

At times such as these, the church often finds itself wrestling with the big question H. Richard Niebuhr posed in his seminal 1951 work, Christ and Culture. That is, to what extent should Christians engage in and interact with the world around them?

On Three Continents, Catholic Priests Challenge Vatican on Women's Ordination

More than 150 Roman Catholic priests in the United States have signed a statement in support of a fellow cleric Roy Bourgeois, who faces dismissal for participating in a ceremony ordaining a woman as a Catholic priest, in defiance of church teaching.

More than 300 priests and deacons in Austria -- representing 15 percent of Catholic clerics in that country -- last month issued a "Call to Disobedience," which stunned their bishops with a seven-point pledge that includes actively promoting priesthood for women and married men, and reciting a public prayer for "church reform" in every Mass.

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