Watch John Gehring, Senior Writer & Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life, on Current TV’s The War Room as he discusses the groundbreaking election of Pope Francis:
John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, argued in yesterday’s USA Today that while the next pope may not radically change the Catholic Church, he will have an opportunity to actively encourage healthy dialogue in the pews:
The next pope, whether cheered by conservative Catholics or eyed warily by liberals in the flock, will not abruptly end the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage, the all-male priesthood and contraception even as many practicing Catholics and some clergy find these teachings flawed.
But a new pope — and no church rule requires the Vicar of Christ to be a cardinal or bishop — could send a powerful message by claiming less infallibility and listening more to ordinary Catholics, overburdened pastors and tireless nuns who live out the Gospel from blighted neighborhoods in Cincinnati to remote villages in Kenya. Instead of silencing theologians and stifling debate, a new pope could let it be known that discernment and discussion are signs of a healthy, flourishing faith.
Read the whole op-ed here.
The announcement today from the Obama administration that it is granting a more robust accommodation for religious institutions who object to providing contraception coverage is a sensible move. The values of protecting women’s health and the conscience rights of religious employers should not be in conflict.
The provision that nearly all employers must provide contraceptive services under the federal health care reform law has sparked a long, messy fight between the Obama administration, Catholic bishops and some conservative evangelicals. This fight is far from over. A dozen separate legal challenges to the administration’s mandate are now winding through the courts. Because judges have reached different conclusions, the U.S. Supreme Court will likely make the final call.
The most significant news from today’s announcement is that the administration’s “four-part test” of what constitutes a “religious employer” — a major sticking point for Catholic universities, charities and hospitals — has been scrapped for a simpler IRS definition. Under the original proposal, employers could be exempt from the contraception mandate only if their purpose was to inculcate religious values, they primarily employed those who shared their religious tenets, primarily served those who shared their religious beliefs and were a nonprofit under federal tax law. The first three parts of that definition were a big problem for religiously affiliated institutions like Catholic hospitals, universities and charities. For Catholics, medical institutions and charities are not tangential to a religious commitment, but central to putting faith into practice. Respected Catholic organizations like the Catholic Health Association, which supported the health care reform law and has distanced itself from the strident rhetoric of some bishops had been urging the administration to make this fix. At the same time, the administration’s proposals announced today, which are open to a 60-day public comment period, will still ensure women have access to contraception coverage without a co-pay. This is a victory for women’s health and the conscience rights of religious employers.
It will take time for various religious organizations to digest the details of today’s announcement, and tensions won’t disappear overnight. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, put out a brief initial statement saying bishops “welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely.”
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami joined the calls of fellow U.S. Catholic Bishops last week with this op-ed urging lawmakers to pass legislation that will create a road map to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans:
“An earned path to citizenship for the undocumented, supported by the U.S. Catholic bishops and a strong majority of the American people, does not have to mean an “amnesty”. Reasonable requirements for permanent legal status and a chance at citizenship — such as paying a fine and any back taxes still owed or learning English — would in fact be gladly embraced by these immigrants who remain in illegal status not because they want to but because legal remedies are not available to them…
A path to citizenship for the undocumented should be the centerpiece of any immigration reform effort this year. A path to citizenship offers immigrants the opportunities and freedom that are the essential components of the American dream.”
Archbishop Wenski is not the only religious leader urging lawmakers to create a roadmap to citizenship. At PICO National Network’s “Separated Families Supper Table,” event, Rev. Richard Smith of San Francisco hosted a symbolic supper for families that have been torn apart by America’s broken immigration system, and prayed for passage of a common-sense immigration process that would reunite families:
“As people of faith the only solution to our harmful immigration policy that recognizes the inherent dignity and rights of all human persons is full citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans who work in our communities, raise their children alongside ours and worship with us,” he noted.
The “Separated Families Supper Table” event, which lifted up the stories of families torn apart by our immigration system, launched the PICO National Network’s Campaign for Citizenship, which “represents Americans of faith who believe that full citizenship rights for 11 million aspiring Americans is the only moral response to our broken patchwork of immigration laws that is consistent with the American values of freedom, fairness and family.”
And just this week, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition sponsored a National Faith Call-In Day with over 1,000 faith leaders from diverse backgrounds calling on their Senators “…to pass immigration reform in 2013 that prioritizes family unity and provides a pathway to full citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.”
In the wake of a national tragedy, religious leaders want for more gun regulation.
As the Obama administration prepares for a showdown with the NRA and the gun lobby, a broad range of faith leaders are voicing their support for stricter gun control laws. A recent survey published by the National Association of Evangelicals showed that 73 percent of evangelical leaders support an increase in gun regulation.
Core teachings in Scripture as well as the recent tragedies in Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT, have united Christian leaders like never before in supporting common-sense gun control laws.
Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, the organization that conducted the survey said in a statement:
“Evangelicals are pro-life and deeply grieve when any weapons are used to take innocent lives… [We] want our laws to prevent the slaughter of children.”
The results of the survey come right after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement calling for action in response to Sandy Hook tragedy. Several Bishops along with President of the USCCB, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, have expressed their solidarity in calling on lawmakers to adequately address gun regulations.
A brief excerpt from their official statement is as follows:
“We offer particular words regarding the issue of the regulation of fire arms, the standards for the entertainment industry, and our service to those with mental health needs. As religious leaders, we are compelled to call on all Americans, especially elected leaders, to address these issues.
With regard to the regulation of fire arms, first, the intent to protect one’s loved ones is an honorable one, but simply put, guns are too easily accessible. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in their document, ‘The International Arms Trade (2006),’ emphasized the importance of enacting concrete controls on handguns, for example, noting that “limiting the purchase of such arms would certainly not infringe on the rights of anyone.”
Bill Lenz, Senior Pastor of Christ the Rock Community Church, a participant in the NAE survey states:
“Most of my experience with guns has been as a hunter in the great Wisconsin outdoors. I do not believe that guns are the heart of the problem, but there should be strong regulations on who can bear arms,” he said. “The easy access to guns has undoubtedly contributed to horrible tragedies. There are multiple ways to address our current problem, and greater gun regulations are one of them.”
The growing consensus among Christians that stricter gun laws are needed to make our communities safer indicates a shift in the way that they view the issue of gun control. In fact, according to a recent USA Today/Gallup Poll, general support for gun control has increased from 43% in October 2011 to 58% in December 2012.