pope benedict xvi

Activists Mobilize Around White House’s Catholic ‘Hate Group’ Petition

We The People petition

We The People petition

The White House’s novel online system for allowing citizens to petition the administration on any number of causes has led to various unintended consequences: petitions to secede from the U.S. following President Obama’s re-election; a petition for Vice President Joe Biden to star in a reality show; and a petition for the government to disclose its secret archives on extraterrestrials.

Now there is a petition to designate the Roman Catholic Church as a hate group for its opposition to gay rights, and it may wind up generating almost as many press releases as signatures.

The “We the People” petition was filed on Christmas Day and was prompted by Pope Benedict XVI’s Dec. 21 year-end address to Vatican administrators in which he denounced gay marriage as a threat to Western civilization.

On Sistine Chapel’s 500th, Foot Traffic Remains a Threat

altrendo travel / Getty Images

Painting on ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Creation of Adam, Vatican, Rome, Italy. Getty Images

VATICAN CITY — Exactly 500 years ago, on Oct. 31, 1512, Pope Julius II led an evening prayer service to inaugurate the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo's newly-finished vault frescoes.

But as Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance masterpiece, the Vatican said the growing number of tourists who visit the historic site every year might eventually lead to limiting access to the chapel to help preserve the frescoes from human-born problems and pollutants.

“We could limit access, introducing a maximum number of entries,” wrote Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's semi-official newspaper. “We will do this, if the pressure from tourism were to increase beyond a reasonable level and if we were to fail in resolving the problem efficiently.”

Paolucci stressed, however, that in his opinion such measures will not be necessary “in the short to medium term.”

In Lebanon, Pope Benedict Tells Middle Eastern Christians: 'Fear Not'

Poster of Pope Benedict XVI in Beruit, Lebanon.

Poster of Pope Benedict XVI in Beruit, Lebanon.

BEIRUT — As violent protests against an anti-Islam film spread to much of the Muslim world on Friday, Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Lebanon to a warm welcome from Christian and Muslim leaders.

The pontiff's appeal for peace and reconciliation in the region, however, stood in jarring contrast with violent clashes in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, which left one dead and 25 injured.    

Landing at Beirut's airport in the early afternoon, Benedict praised Lebanon as an example of "coexistence and respectful dialogue between Christians and their brethren of other religions."    

Without referring expressly to the unrest, the pope warned that the country's "equilibrium" is "extremely delicate."  

Pope Benedict's Trip to Lebanon Still a Go, Despite Violence in Region

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

The Vatican confirmed on Wednesday that Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon will go ahead as planned, despite growing tension in the region after the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya by a mob enraged by an anti-Islam film.

The Vatican's chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican was closely monitoring developments in the region but there were no signs of specific security concerns for Benedict's trip so far.

Benedict is scheduled to leave Friday for a three-day visit to Lebanon despite rising instability spilling over from a deadly civil war in neighboring Syr

Legacy of Vatican II at Heart of Dispute Between Vatican, U.S. Nuns

A Rally in support of nuns. RNS photo courtesy Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly

A Rally in support of nuns. RNS photo courtesy Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly

 Fifty years after Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council to modernize the Roman Catholic Church, the legacy of that watershed summit that revolutionized Catholic life is at the core of a dispute between the Vatican and American nuns.

In April, the Vatican accused the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the umbrella group that represents the majority of American nuns, of “doctrinal confusion.”  As LCWR leaders meet this week (Aug. 7-11) to plot their response to the Vatican, many of the sisters say they are just following the spirit of Vatican II.

“This is not just about the Vatican versus the nuns. This really is about the future of how we interpret the message of the Second Vatican Council,” Sister Maureen Fiedler told the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.”

Mad Men, Catholics and a 'Moral Revolution'

Pope Benedict XVI photo, MIMMO FERRARO / Shutterstock.com

Pope Benedict XVI photo, MIMMO FERRARO / Shutterstock.com

Amy and I have been working (translated: watching lazily) our way through the first several seasons of Mad Men. The writing is remarkably subtle, and I was particularly struck by the fact that such a long-standing show could effectively have little or no plot focusing instead on rich character development.

For a writer, this is like enjoying a gourmet meal every night.

But the cherry on top for me is the sprinkling of anachronisms that apparently made plenty of sense at the time, but which are shockingly out of place now. There was a scene of the main family in the park, and when they’re done, the mother gives the blanket a good flick and leaves all of their trash wherever it falls. There’s also the constant smoking, even around kids and by pregnant wives (the perfect antidote for nausea, apparently), drinking at work and brazenly racist comments as the cultural norm.

Hard to believe sometimes that this took place so recently that my parents were teenagers when it took place.

Rebel Nuns: When the Faithful Stop Obeying

St. Peter's Cathedral, Rome, Italy. Photo by Grant Faint / Getty Images

St. Peter's Cathedral, Rome, Italy. Photo by Grant Faint / Getty Images

It seems the Sisters of North America are calling the Vatican out. When criticized by Vatican officials for taking a position too far left of center on a number of social issues, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious responded by calling the Vatican’s criticisms unsubstantiated and flawed.

But the rhetoric didn’t stay at the topical level. LCWR president Theresa Kane said (according to a Huffington Post report), "It is a matter of the men in the Vatican still thinking they can control the women. ... They don’t realize that we have moved to another whole point of tremendous equality and mutuality. And that we have much to say about our future and what’s going on.”

The Catholic Church, and the Pope in particular, embrace a number of socially redeeming virtues; equality and mutuality between the genders are not two of them.

What’s at Stake in Pope Benedict XVI’s Visit to Philadelphia

Pope Benedict XVI photo by Natursports / Shutterstock.com

Pope Benedict XVI photo by Natursports / Shutterstock.com

Nearly lost amid ongoing reports about the Vatican leaks scandal, Rome’s battle with American nuns, the American bishops’ battle for religious freedom, and the priest on trial in Philadelphia, was the news that, by the way, Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit Philadelphia.

Benedict made the announcement at the end of his visit to Milan on June 3 for the church’s triennial World Meeting of Families. The next meeting would be in Philadelphia in 2015, he said, and he planned to be there, “God willing.”

True, the trip won’t happen until 2015, and it may well not happen at all — Benedict would be 88 by then. Even if there's a new pope in 2015, the City of Brotherly Love is still almost assured of getting a papal visit — new popes like to underscore continuity, and respect the plans their predecessors had in place.

In a larger sense, the visit would be about more than promoting family life, and in many ways it's related to other Catholic issues now dominating the headlines. Here’s why.

Vatican ‘Moles’ Say Pope’s Butler Didn’t Act Alone, Vow More Leaks

Despite the arrest of Pope Benedict XVI's butler two weeks ago, leaks of confidential documents continue to dribble out of the Vatican as “moles” vow to continue their action until the pope's two closest aides are sacked.

The Italian daily La Repubblica on June 3 published a short handwritten note by Pope Benedict himself that was leaked from the Vatican. La Repubblica also said it had received two letters by the pope's personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, but chose not to publish their contents.