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Emerging religious issues as we move to 2012

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Three religious issues are emerging as significant as we march toward the 2012 election: Obama’s “faith dilemma,” perceptions of Islam, and attitudes about American “exceptionalism.” These findings come from a new nationwide poll, conducted in both English and Spanish from November 3-7, 2010 by the Public Religion Research Institute.

People’s perception of Obama’s religious beliefs are strongly related to the way they rate them as President. More than half say that his religious beliefs are different from their own (somewhat different: 16%, or very different: 35%). Only 40% say he has beliefs similar to theirs.

Women religious group wanted more from U.S. bishops

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A progressive group of U.S. women religious, the National Coalition of American Nuns, expressed their disappointment last week that the U.S. bishops, who met in Baltimore for three days, did not address the suffering of gay and lesbians, among them gay and lesbian Catholics.

NCAN issued the following statement:

On behalf of GLBT Catholics, their families and friends, and thoughtful Catholics across the United States, the National Coalition of American Nuns is appalled at the lack of sensitivity of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to lesbian and gay persons.

More than a month has gone by since the media broke the news about a series of gay suicides. During that time, the US Catholic Bishops failed to make a single statement regarding these tragic, preventable deaths. Not one bishop’s voice was raised to condemn a culture where youths are bullied for being who God created them to be and are sometimes pushed by society’s judgments to attempt suicide. Many people have accused certain segments of organized religion, including the Catholic hierarchy, of fueling these attacks and contributing to suicides.

Lefebvrites threaten to expel Holocaust denying bishop

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Traditionalist society threatens to expel bishop for extremist ties

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Society of St. Pius X threatened to expel traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson if he retained an extremist lawyer with neo-Nazi ties to defend him in a German court.

The head of the traditionalist society, Bishop Bernard Fellay, "has formally ordered Bishop Williamson to abandon this decision and not allow himself to be manipulated by political ideas that are completely unrelated to his mission as a Catholic bishop serving the Society of St. Pius X," said a recent communique.

"To disobey this order would result in Bishop Williamson being excluded from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X," said the statement signed Nov. 20 by the society's secretary general, Father Christian Thouvenot.

The society expressed its concern that the British-born bishop had hired a lawyer "who is openly affiliated to the so-called neo-Nazi movement in Germany and other such groups."

Bourgeois: Arrests were violations of 'basic human rights'

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Yesterday’s arrests during a rally at the gates of Fort Benning here were violations of basic human rights, says SOA Watch founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois.

Speaking to NCR today during the solemn vigil and procession outside the gates of the military complex, Bourgeois said there was a “meanness” and a “harshness” to the police action.

More arrests, march of solidarity at SOA vigil

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -- At least two activists were arrested for trespassing onto Fort Benning here today as thousands more held a vigil outside the gates of the military complex, calling attention to the use of the facility as an international military training school.

Speaking to NCR minutes before he jumped the fence onto the military complex to be arrested, Chris Spicer said he wanted to show love and solidarity for those in Latin America who have been killed by those trained at the facility.

Spicer, a former Jesuit seminarian and member of the White Rose Catholic Worker Community in Chicago, climbed over the barbed wire fence separating the activists from the military base. He was immediately arrested by military personnel.

The arrests came after a morning long vigil and funeral procession outside the gates of the training school, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

The Pope's Rorschach Test

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Catholic theologians have been taken to the woodshed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI for allegedly muddying up doctrinal waters.

Now Benedict has offered some ambiguity of his own on condom use in his interview with the German publication. The fact that the interview took place at all is remarkable and a credit to the pope. The crisis of credibility swirling around the Vatican may have played a large part in his choosing to break precedent (reporters have been clamoring for this for decades) but ultimately it was his own meritorious decision to do so.

Talking to the media without the usual protective filters is tricky business, as the pope undoubtedly realizes now if he didn't before. It tends to make interviewees overly simplify to assert their authority or overly nuance in an effort to satisfy everyone.

This pope's reputation has been as a sophisticated theologian with both style and clarity. In his previous role as John Paul II's doctrinal watchdog, he brooked no deviation from orthodox views, as he and John Paul saw them, and after becoming pope he continued to define issues sharply and firmly.

Vatican statement on Benedict XVI and condoms

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Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, issued a statement Nov. 21 in response to wide international coverage of Pope Benedict XVI's comments on condoms in a new book-length interview with the German journalist Peter Seewald.

In essence, Benedict reiterated the church's broad opposition to artificial birth control, but said that in some exceptional cases, where the intent is to prevent disease rather than pregnancy, the use of a condom could be a "first step" towards a greater sense of moral responsibility.

In his statement, Lombardi insists that Benedict has not changed church teaching on condoms, but rather given papal expression to a position long held by moral theologians and other "ecclesial personalities," including a number of cardinals.

The full text of Lombardi's statement follows, in an NCR translation from Italian.

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Note of Fr. Lombardi on the words of the pope on the question of condoms

Pope talks condoms, sex abuse, resignation ... and movie nights

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

tPope Benedict XVI is famously his own best spin doctor. In the old days, the Vatican would dispatch senior officials to try to calm the waters after the pope said or did something controversial; more recently it’s worked the other way, with Benedict himself getting the Vatican back “on message” after one of his aides, or somebody else in officialdom, has put his foot in his mouth.

tBenedict’s chops as a teacher and communicator are once again in evidence this week, with release of the new book Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, an interview with German journalist Peter Seewald (published in English by Ignatius Press). Excerpts from the book were published yesterday in L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper.

Prior to his election to the papacy, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sat down for two such extended interviews with Seewald. This summer, he gave Seewald an hour a day over the course of a week, and the results of those sessions run to some 180 pages covering virtually every major episode and controversy from the first five years of Benedict’s papacy.

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