WASHINGTON -- Francis J. Butler -- who usually worked quietly behind the scenes but may have been as influential as almost any other layperson in the U.S. Catholic church over the past 40 years -- retired Feb. 3 after 32 years as president of FADICA, Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities.
The owner of a business who claimed he would provide atheist rescuers for Christians' pets left behind in the Rapture now says his service was an elaborate hoax and never had any clients.
Bart Centre, who lives in New Hampshire, came clean after the state Insurance Department delivered a subpoena because he appeared to be engaged in "unauthorized business of insurance" through his Eternal Earth-Bound Pets business.
"Eternal Earth-Bound Pets employs no paid rescuers," Bart Centre wrote in a blog post March 16. "It has no clients. It has never issued a service certificate. It has accepted no service contract applications nor received any payments -- not a single dollar -- in the almost three years of its existence."
Centre's business was reported widely by Religion News Service, NPR, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, CBS News, the BBC, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Huffington Post and other media outlets in the last year.
WASHINGTON -- Each spring, the doors of the small church near Candler, close to Asheville in North Carolina, are flung open to let in the burgeoning number of congregants.
Seats fill fast on or around March 24, said Edith Segovia, a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc Church. Increasingly, she sees younger churchgoers arriving to celebrate the life of a man who died before many of them were born.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Ken Hackett, who retired in December after 18 years as president of Catholic Relief Services, will receive the University of Notre Dame's 2012 Laetare Medal.
Holy Cross Fr. John I. Jenkins, university president, announced the honor Sunday. Given annually since 1883 to a Catholic "whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity," it will be presented at Notre Dame's 167th commencement ceremony May 20.
"Ken Hackett has responded to a Gospel imperative with his entire career," Jenkins said in a statement. "His direction of the Catholic Church's outreach to the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and unsheltered of the world has blended administrative acumen with genuine compassion in a unique and exemplary way."
WASHINGTON -- Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., to be the new archbishop of Baltimore, and he also named new bishops for the dioceses of Rockford, Ill., and Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla.
Many TV network executives, advertisers and producers would sell their souls to get the kind of audience God has. But giving religion a starring role in prime time? Not so much.
Religion, God and spirituality have made cameos across the dial from "The Sopranos" to "The Simpsons" -- though usually as a prop or walk-on role. But shows where religion is a central part of the premise are rare, and the ratings are generally far from heavenly.
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Peter Goodwin, the first doctor in Oregon to campaign publicly for the terminally ill to obtain medical help in ending their lives, died shortly after exercising the right he fought to secure. He was 83.
Goodwin's four adult children and their spouses surrounded him in his apartment when he took a planned overdose of a prescribed drug Sunday.
He died less than 30 minutes later, said Steve Hopcraft, a spokesman for Compassion & Choices of Oregon.
Goodwin, a retired professor of family medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, was diagnosed six years ago with a rare neurological disorder called corticobasal ganglionic degeneration, which is similar to Parkinson's disease but has no treatment or cure.
He spent his last weeks talking on the phone with friends and accepting brief visits from longtime comrades. He said the Death with Dignity Act was his most significant public legacy because passage prodded medicine to improve palliative and hospice care of the dying.
Friends praised Goodwin as a brave public figure who took up a cause that in the early 1980s drew fierce criticism from Oregon's doctors, clergy and politicians.
GAITHERSBURG, Md. -- Two weeks after Fr. Marcel Guarnizo reportedly denied Communion to a lesbian woman at her mother's funeral, the Washington Archdiocese suspended him from priestly ministry -- but for other reasons, said Fr. Thomas LaHood, pastor of St. John Neumann Church in Gaithersburg, where Guarnizo had been parochial vicar for the past year.
WASHINGTON -- In the space of one month, the conversation about life online swiveled from "stop online piracy" to "stop online privacy."
In January, many of the top online websites banded together to fight a bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act. Some even intentionally went dark for a day, strongly hinting to Web users that the online future could be similarly bleak. Key members of the House, including some of the bill's sponsors, got the message loud and clear and shelved the bill without bringing it to a vote.
PHILADELPHIA -- Suspicion surrounding the death of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, former archbishop of Philadelphia, has been laid to rest with a Thursday coroner's report that he died of natural causes Jan. 31 at St. Charles Seminary in Wynnewood.
"Elderly people with pre-existent natural disease often die quite suddenly," Montgomery County Coroner Walter I. Hofman said Thursday at news conference at his office in Norristown.
Bevilacqua, 88, had been living at the seminary since his retirement in 2003.
Hofman said the cardinal had received excellent care for prostate cancer and dementia, and toxicology tests revealed normal levels of medications to treat the conditions.
He added that cancer had contributed to heart failure, which was the official cause of death.
"The coroner confirmed that Cardinal Bevilacqua was ailing, taking multiple prescription medications, and he died of natural causes," said Donna Farrell, archdiocesan communications director, who spoke Thursday at a press briefing at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Philadelphia. "It is what we believed and knew in our hearts all along, and this speculation can finally be laid to rest."