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On condoms, has the Vatican rejected the Pharisees?

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

tWhile it’s no secret that many liberal Catholic theologians have long questioned church teaching on birth control, an equal-and-opposite row among conservatives has often flown below radar. In those circles, the question isn’t so much whether devices such as condoms ought to be embraced, but whether they’re so intrinsically evil that they necessarily add an element of sin to any sexual act.

tSome prominent Catholic observers say that question has now been settled by the Vatican, and in a way that pulls the rug out from under some of the church’s most unyielding pro-life voices.

tEnglish Catholic writer Austen Ivereigh claimed in an analysis yesterday for America magazine that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has, in effect, rejected what he called a “Pharisaical” position on condoms that Ivereigh associates primarily with “pro-life ultras in the English-speaking world.”

tIn a similar vein, Italian Vatican writer Sandro Magister wrote that hard-liners “cannot help but be disappointed” by what the doctrinal congregation has said.

Obama 'wrestling' with question of marriage equality

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The Advocate, the national gay and lesbian newsmagazine, had an exclusive interview with President Obama:

On the question of marriage equality, the president said his “attitudes are evolving.”

“Like a lot of people, I'm wrestling with this,” he said. "I've wrestled with the fact that marriage traditionally has had a different connotation. But I also have a lot of very close friends who are married gay or lesbian couples.”

Read the full interview: Obama: 'Prepared to Implement'

On secular society, pope is right about one thing

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Pope Benedict XVI’s comments this week to the papal curia about the clergy sexual abuse crisis is sure to draw both condemnation and applause. This AP article has statements from Barbara Blaine of SNAP criticizing the pope’s analysis because he appears to be blaming the clergy sexual abuse crisis on secular society.

I certainly agree with Blaine’s assessment that a culture of secrecy is, in large part, what led to the clergy sexual abuse crisis becoming so widespread and deeply-rooted a catastrophe for the Catholic Church. The sexual abuse of children is a Catholic church problem, one that reaches across ethnicities, cultures, and socio-economic status. The common denominator for the children (now, adults) who were abused was the church and the unfortunate fact that they crossed paths with an abusive priest who the institutional church should have removed but did not.

Bishops commend Senate for START ratification

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Press Release from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Bishop Hubbard Commends Senate Ratification of New Start Treaty

WASHINGTON (December 22, 2010)— Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, NY, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, commended today’s ratification of the New START Treaty by the Senate.

“I welcome today’s ratification of the New START Treaty by the Senate,” Bishop Hubbard said. “It was important that senators joined across party lines to support this Treaty. The Holy See and our Bishops’ Conference have long supported efforts to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation based on the Church’s moral concern for indiscriminate and disproportionate weapons.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been a steadfast supporter of strong and bipartisan action on the New START Treaty.

Mental health needs seen growing at colleges

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This past fall I blogged on the issue of suicide, which seems to be reaching epidemic levels.

Here's an important story from The New York Times:

"Rushing a student to a psychiatric emergency room is never routine, but when Stony Brook University logged three trips in three days, it did not surprise Jenny Hwang, the director of counseling.

It was deep into the fall semester, a time of mounting stress with finals looming and the holiday break not far off, an anxiety all its own.

On a Thursday afternoon, a freshman who had been scraping bottom academically posted thoughts about suicide onFacebook. If I were gone, he wrote, would anybody notice? An alarmed student told staff members in the dorm, who called Dr. Hwang after hours, who contacted the campus police. Officers escorted the student to the county psychiatric hospital.

NY Times: Phoenix bishop 'jeopardizes women's lives'

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Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Phoenix diocese is acting as though he has a "public license to jeopardize women’s lives," The New York Times writes in an editorial posted to their Web site late Wednesday night.

Olmsted withdrew the Catholic designation from St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix Tuesday because of a dispute over whether a procedure performed at the hospital last year was a direct abortion.

The Times editorial is titled "A Matter of Life or Death."

From the editorial:

It is hardly reassuring that following the incident at St. Joseph’s, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said Sister Margaret was properly punished and seconded Bishop Olmsted’s stance against providing the abortion, even to save a woman’s life. No one has suggested that Catholic hospitals should be required to perform nonemergency abortions. But as St. Joseph’s recognized, the need to accommodate religious doctrine does not give health providers serving the general public license to jeopardize women’s lives.

Faith In Science Doesn't Always Work Either

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The belief that science has replaced religion as the major judge or truth and falsehood has become a staple of education, both higher and lower. The Enlightenment brought the sovereinty of reason and spawned the empirical method. That big bang set off a juggernaut tht has reshaped Western civilization.

Yet it doesn't work out that way under real life conditions. Note two recent findings from reputable polls: one, from Pew that 40 percent of Americans fit the description of "creationists," thereby rejecting key features of evolution; two, that 48 percent think global warming is "exaggerated," dismissing the assessment of climatologists.

About four in 10 Americans, therefore, are using measuring sticks other than reason or demonstrated results to decide what they think.

Well, you might say, those polls include lots of "uneducated" people. Sure, creationists are 47 percent among high school graduates or less, and 10 points lower for college graduates, but that still leaves between a third and two fifths of college graduates who think Darwin got it wrong. And the biggest gap was between Republicans (52 percent) and Democrats (34 percent).

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July 17-30, 2015

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