There are several issues in the ongoing saga of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). While the problem is painted as a collision of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' views on religious liberty and the federal government's stated belief that "contraceptive services" are preventive health care, it's more than just that.
"Ignore the Bishops" has long been a favored indoor sport of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. As it moves to international -- even Olympic-level -- competition, its dangers become apparent.
Witness the fracas over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) -- what pundits call "Obamacare" -- and its religious exemptions.
Basically, unless you are a religious employer and only hire folks for religious duties (essentially interpreted as direct religious ministry in the church building), you have to provide insurance coverage for birth control, sterilizations and abortifacient devices and chemicals by Aug. 1, 2013.
Federal regulations forbid paying for (or encouraging) abortion, but the federal act mandates any woman can get an IUD or some other device or chemical to interrupt pregnancy. The government says that's not abortion, which it cannot mandate or pay for. Yet.
The hue and cry is not letting up. Nor should it.
About a year ago, I published an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI asking him to make a decision on restoring women to the diaconate. I didn't hear back.
Priest-pederasts, -philanderers and -embezzlers continue to make the news. Parishes and schools are closing all over. Ordinations -- at least in the United States -- are beyond way down. The public relations profile of U.S. bishops seems fixed on same-sex marriage, abortion and the "new evangelization."
Are U.S. bishops carrying the brief for women deacons to their ad limina meetings in Rome?
They may be. The issue is picking up speed.
The Cleveland-based activist group FutureChurch has organized its members nationwide to pay pre-ad limina calls on bishops. The FutureChurch brief includes restoring women to their traditional place in the diaconate. In addition, a national Books-to-Bishops campaign has sent copies of the newly published Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future (by Santa Clara Professor Gary Macy, Monterey Deacon William T. Ditewig and me) to 135 U.S. diocesan bishops to date.
Gutenberg started it with his printing press, and the church's ability to control its message has been eroding ever since. Information and delivery systems were once restricted to stole-wearing clerics, but now bishops have the laity's access to the Internet to deal with.
They are not having much luck controlling the new lay preaching.
We tend to forget the end of Luke's account of the annunciation. We remember the angel, we remember Mary's fiat, but that last line gets buried in gauzy imaginings of gold and light.
"And then the angel left her."
The sentence is stunning. In the Scripture story, a young girl has graciously, generously, hopefully accepted news of enormous consequence. Then the angel takes off.
Well, it had to come out sometime. The current front-runner in the Republican presidential primary race, Newt Gingrich, is a Catholic. He used to be a Lutheran. Then he was a Southern Baptist. He converted to share his third wife's Catholicism in 2009.
Seatbelts, everyone. It's going to be a bumpy ride.
The webcasted November meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops held the excitement of a gathering of accountants discussing actuarial tables. You can catch reruns on the USCCB website.
Even so, the 300 or so bishops, most over the age of 60, seemed to enjoy their Baltimore sojourn.
A while back, Cardinal Walter Kasper said bishops have two arms: the priesthood and the diaconate. But a few U.S. bishops have interrupted their diaconal formation programs and are not training new candidates during this academic year.
Will there be others? Why now? Can we expect a cadre of one-armed bishops?
I know you know about Moammar Gadhafi's death. Who could miss the news? The major players rushed to the world stage with their opinions. The Vatican issued a statement.
Wang Yue died around the same time as Gadhafi. What have world leaders and the Vatican said about Wang Yue?
Election time is rolling around. Time for everybody to get religion.
When Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress introduced Texas’ Republican Governor Rick Perry at a gathering of Christian conservatives October 7, he called Perry “a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.”