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Politics

White House insists contraception talks are on track

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The Obama administration is rejecting charges by the nation's top Catholic bishop that talks to modify a controversial birth control mandate are "going nowhere" because of alleged White House intransigence and efforts to diminish the central role of the bishops.

"The White House has put nearly every issue requested by the bishops on the table for discussion and has sought the views of bishops on resolving difficult policy problems, only to be rebuffed," an administration official close to the negotiations said Tuesday.

Rick Santorum's secret army: home-schoolers

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Strapped for cash and paid staff, Rick Santorum has enlisted a ragtag but politically potent army to keep his campaign afloat: home-schoolers.

Heading into Super Tuesday, Santorum urged home-schoolers to organize rallies, to post favorable features on social media and to ring doorbells on his behalf.

"Santorum has been very aggressive in reaching out to the home-schooling community, especially in the last month," said Rebecca Keliher, the CEO and publisher of Home Educating Family Publishing.

Drawing on his experience as a home-schooling father of seven, the former Pennsylvania senator has also sought to rally enthusiasm by pledging to continue that course in the White House.

"It's a great sacrifice that my wife, Karen, and I have made to try to give what we think is the best possible opportunity for our children to be successful," Santorum said during a March 1 campaign stop in Georgia. "Not just economically, but in a whole lot of other areas that we think are important -- virtue and character and spirituality."

Antitrust efforts have gone in dustbin of history

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Viewpoint

The food we eat is increasingly part of a globalized and industrialized concentrated system. Researchers point to a growing consolidation in food production, processing and distribution. Four or five companies control thousands of brands. Poultry growers have one-sided contracts, pig and beef producers increasingly are forced to give up independence for contracts to produce in confined animal production units. Farmers are increasingly treated like serfs on their own land.

Mitt Romney trouncing Rick Santorum among Catholics

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Mitt Romney has trounced Rick Santorum, an ardent Catholic, among Catholic voters, but Romney's support among evangelicals has wavered thus far in the GOP presidential primary, according to a new analysis of exit poll data.

Although he won evangelicals in two states, in general Romney has performed 15 percentage points better among non-evangelicals, according to an analysis released Friday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Exit poll data is available in seven of the 11 states that have held primary contests to date, according to the Pew Forum. More detailed religious affiliations are available in six of those states.

White evangelicals formed more than a third of all GOP primary voters in each state except for Nevada (24 percent) and New Hampshire (21 percent). Romney, a Mormon, won the evangelical vote in those two states, and almost tied for first in Arizona and Florida. But he lost the evangelical vote badly in three states: Michigan, Iowa and South Carolina.

Somewhat surprisingly, Santorum has not won the Catholic vote in a single state in which data is available, according to the Pew Forum.

New poll shows California Catholics increasingly support gay marriage

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Results of a Field Poll released Wednesday show growing support for gay marriage among registered California voters, including Catholics. Fifty-nine percent of those polled favor same-sex unions, the greatest support in the 35 years the Field Poll has been tracking the issue. Catholics showed 51 percent support in the new poll, up four percentage points from the 2010 poll.

Protestants polled showed 45 percent support, an 11 percentage point gain, while 49 percent remained opposed. Eighty percent of voters with no religious preference said they support gay marriage.

Among white voters polled, there was 64 percent support, while 53 percent of Hispanic voters and 50 percent of African-American and Asian-America voters said they support same-sex marriage.

The strongest support in the poll (69 percent) comes from voters 18 to 39 years old. Among voters 40 to 64 years old, there is 59 percent support, and 45 percent support among those over 65.

Senate rejects change to contraception rule

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The Senate on Thursday defeated a Republican-led bid to insert a broad religious exemption into a federal mandate that requires most employers and health insurance companies to provide free contraception coverage.

The largely party-line vote was 51-48 in favor of tabling an amendment that Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., had offered to a federal transportation bill.

Catholic voter guide differs from two Catholic candidates

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A group of Democratic-leaning Catholics on Wednesday released a 2012 voter guide that seeks to expand the concept of "pro-life issues" beyond abortion to also include war, euthanasia and poverty.

The nine-page guide from the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good -- one of the first to be released for the 2012 elections -- highlights economic issues as top concerns Catholics should weigh as they consider their vote.

The guide is markedly different from others circulated by conservative Catholic groups, which stress opposition to abortion rights as a non-negotiable stance for American Catholics.

Most notably, the new guide stands in stark contrast to the positions of the two Catholic presidential candidates, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, whose culture war rhetoric has dominated political discourse in recent weeks.

While the authors said they took their cues from the U.S. bishops' own voting priorities, the new guide does not mention gay marriage, which the Catholic bishops increasingly regard as a threat on par with legalized abortion.

Bishop tells committee about 'absurd' effects of contraceptive mandate

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty went before Congress again Tuesday to urge rescission of the Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate or passage of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.

Bishop William E. Lori's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee focused on some of the "absurd and surreal consequences" of the mandate and the "accommodation" announced Feb. 10 by President Barack Obama, which the bishop called "a legally unenforceable promise to alter the way the mandate would still apply to those who are still not exempt from it."

"'Without change' suddenly means 'with change,'" he said. "'Choice' suddenly means 'force.'"

The bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., who addressed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Feb. 16 on a similar topic, was joined at the hearing by a Muslim-American attorney, the director of the Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity and a physician who chaired the Institute of Medicine's Committee on Preventive Services for Women.

Franklin Graham apologizes for questioning Obama's faith

WASHINGTON -- Evangelist Franklin Graham apologized Tuesday (Feb. 28) to President Obama for questioning his Christian faith and said religion has "nothing to do" with Graham's decision not to support Obama's re-election.

Graham's apology came after a group of prominent black religious leaders criticized the evangelist for saying he did not know whether Obama is a Christian and suggesting that Islamic law considers him to be a Muslim.

Graham, president of the relief organization Samaritan's Purse and the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, said he now accepts Obama's declarations that he is a Christian.

"I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr. Obama," he said in a statement.

"I apologize to him and to any I have offended for not better articulating my reason for not supporting him in this election -- for his faith has nothing to do with my consideration of him as a candidate."

Graham said he objects to Obama's policy stances on abortion and same-sex marriage, which Graham considers to be in "direct conflict" with Scripture.

A cardinal's role in the end of a state's ban on contraception

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Up until the middle of 1966, it was illegal to buy a condom in Massachusetts.

That year, the state became the last in the country to overturn a ban on the sale of contraceptives. And when it finally did, it was because of the support of a key Catholic leader, Boston’s powerful archbishop, Cardinal Richard Cushing.

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