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Politics

Top bishop said he feels betrayed by Obama

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WASHINGTON -- In the wake of President Barack Obama's controversial decision to mandate that religious groups pay for contraceptives for their employees, much of the coverage focused on how the president had disappointed progressive allies by giving religious groups an extra year to comply.

But the decision also had New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, feeling personally betrayed.

"I have to say, there's a sense of personal disappointment," Dolan said Tuesday after he gave a lecture on "Law and the Gospel of Life" at Fordham Law School.

Last November, amid deepening tensions between the bishops and the administration over the pending contraception mandate and other issues, Obama invited Dolan to the Oval Office, where the two men shared what Dolan called a productive and "extraordinarily friendly" meeting.

"The president seemed very earnest, he said he considered the protection of conscience sacred, that he didn't want anything his administration would do to impede the work of the church that he claimed he held in high regard," Dolan said. "So I did leave a little buoyant."

Poll shows majority of Americans OK with abortion restrictions

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WASHINGTON -- A poll taken for the Knights of Columbus and Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., indicates a strong majority of Americans continue to want restrictions on abortion.

According to the poll, 79 percent of those surveyed said they would not allow abortion after the first three months of pregnancy. And 51 percent said they would allow abortion only in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother's life -- or not at all.

The poll's numbers are almost unchanged from a similar poll taken two years ago.

The survey responses were released in Washington Jan. 23, the date of this year's March for Life.

According to the poll results, 84 percent said they believe that laws can protect both the life of the unborn and the health and well-being of women. This is up from 81 percent from the 2010 survey.

"Almost four decades after the Supreme Court's decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which resulted in the almost totally unrestricted abortion regime of today, these decisions continue to be out of step with the vast majority of Americans," said a Jan. 23 statement by Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus.

Cakewalks and slam dunks: realities of the Iraq War

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COLUMN

From the beginning to the end -- March 2003 to December 2011 -- the Iraq War was a lose-lose tragedy: losses for the people of Iraq that range from a mass exodus of refugees to a civilian death toll beyond counting, and losses for America that include battlefield deaths, physical and psychic wounds, a record number of soldier suicides, an economy bankrupted by the costs of a war that the public was lied into and was exploited by military contractors, hawked by the establishment media and defended by cheerers who predicted a quick victory as either a “slam dunk” or “cakewalk.”

None of these realities received even a passing nod when Commander in Chief Barack Obama in mid-December spoke in a hangar packed with soldiers in Fort Bragg, N.C. Instead, he dealt in fantasies, accolades and bromides. The war “is one of the most extraordinary chapters in the history of the American military.” It “has made America stronger and the world more secure.” We have “the emergence of a new dawn.”

Bishops' conscience model makes light of practical reason

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COMMENTARY

What if the clashes over conscience between the American Catholic bishops and the Obama Administration are driven in great measure not by anti-Catholicism nor by creeping totalitarianism but by the very model of conscience used by the bishops themselves?

The next year may provide a decisive answer to this question.

HHS delays, but does not change, rule on contraceptive coverage

WASHINGTON -- Although Catholic leaders vowed to fight on, the Obama administration has turned down repeated requests from Catholic bishops, hospitals, schools and charitable organizations to revise its religious exemption to the requirement that all health plans cover contraceptives and sterilization free of charge.

Instead, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced Jan. 20 that nonprofit groups that do not provide contraceptive coverage because of their religious beliefs will get an additional year "to adapt to this new rule."

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More NCR coverage:

The news story: HHS delays, but does not change, rule on contraceptive coverage

Opinion: J'ACCUSE! Why Obama is wrong on the HHS conscience regulations

Analysis: White House refuses to expand conscience exemption

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California bishops back signature drives on death penalty, abortion

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Catholic bishops of California are backing proposed ballot measures to require parental notification before a minor's abortion and to end use of the death penalty in the state.

The endorsement, contained in a statement posted Jan. 10 on the website of the California Catholic Conference, marks a departure from the bishops' long-standing policy of not taking a stand on potential initiatives until they have qualified for the state ballot.

But the "convergence" of the two proposed initiatives presents "a unique teaching moment on life and family," the bishops said.

"These two initiatives have appeared at the same time on the political landscape and bring into sharp focus important moral issues, namely our society's treatment of nascent life, family life and even a sinful or errant life," they added. "In keeping with our fundamental principles, we believe that social policy should respect and support the role of parents in caring for their children. Justice should uphold human dignity as it protects the community."

Muslims say Ron Paul is their kind of Republican

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Growing up in rural parts of the American West, Nadja Adolf's libertarian streak developed early on.

"When you come from a countryside that can kill you," said Adolf, a Muslim convert in her late 50s, "there is a strong emphasis on individual rights, a strong emphasis on self-reliance and an emphasis on helping each other out."

That attitude is part of the reason Adolf is drawn to the presidential campaign of Ron Paul, the maverick Republican congressman from Texas who is fighting to stay alive in the Republican primaries.

While some political observers question whether Paul has the staying power and widespread appeal to win the nomination, his campaign has proven unique in one respect: He's drawing serious support from Muslims.

After abandoning the GOP in droves during the George W. Bush presidency, some Muslims say Paul is the kind of Republican who could draw them back and challenge their loyalty to President Barack Obama.

Will evangelical endorsement fuel Santorum surge?

The Iowa caucuses revived Rick Santorum's underdog presidential campaign. Now an influential assortment of Christian conservatives has moved to consecrate it.

On Saturday, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania sewed up the endorsement from a coalition of prominent national evangelical leaders. And he has basked in the glow of their affirmation.

"Every (GOP) candidate and campaign greatly coveted this endorsement," said Hogan Gidley, Santorum's national campaign spokesman. "Once Rick Santorum received the endorsement, all the other campaigns dismissed it, (but) they all had emissaries in the room trying to get the endorsement."

Gidley predicted the endorsement would spark a late Santorum surge in Saturday's South Carolina GOP primary, similar to the push that saw him come within eight votes of winning the Iowa caucuses.

"We were this far down six days out of Iowa, too," Gidley said, alluding to Santorum's double-digit deficit in the polls. "But this kind of endorsement is the shot in the arm that awakens the activists and gets them behind the candidate they can relate to and trust."

Bishops: Same-sex marriage 'not in the public interest'

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SEATTLE -- Legislation introduced by lawmakers in Washington state that would redefine marriage to allow same-sex marriage "is not in the public interest," said the bishops of the state's three Catholic dioceses.

"Marriage in faith and societal traditions is acknowledged as the foundation of civilization. It has long been recognized that the stability of society depends on the stability of family life in which a man and a woman conceive and nurture new life," the bishops said in a statement released Jan. 13.

Supreme Court sides with churches in employment fights

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously threw its support behind a church school that fired a teacher, using a widely watched church-state case to bolster a legal doctrine that exempts religious institutions from some civil rights laws.

Religious groups heralded the ruling as a firm assertion of religious freedom that keeps personnel decisions about religious employees where they should be: within a church, synagogue or mosque.

"The court hasn't spoken this clearly on a church-state matter in almost 20 years," said Rob Garnett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame who wrote an amicus brief on the case in support of the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School.

"This is bedrock," Garnett continued. "All the justices came together to say if religious freedom means anything, it means governments can't interfere with religious institutions' decisions on who is going to be their minister or teacher."

Those who advocate for the separation of church and state said the court has now set the bar far too high for employees of religious institutions who seek redress against discrimination.

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