National Catholic Reporter

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Courts urged not to dismiss Catholic lawsuits against HHS mandate

WASHINGTON -- In a dozen courts around the country, attorneys representing more than 40 Catholic dioceses or institutions have filed briefs arguing against the federal government's call to dismiss lawsuits against its contraceptive mandate.

The Catholic entities are seeking to overturn a requirement that most religious employers provide contraceptives and sterilization to their employees.

The simultaneous filings Monday were in response to an Aug. 6 brief in which the Obama administration asked the courts to summarily dismiss the suits, saying they were premature and that the plaintiffs had no standing to challenge the Department of Health and Human Services' mandate.

"This case is about important rights to religious freedom protected by our founders under the First Amendment, assured by Congress under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but trampled by Defendants under haphazard rulemaking," says the 36-page brief filed on behalf of the University of Notre Dame.

Survey: Economy continues negative effect on churches

The economy continues to weigh on pastors, with a new survey showing that almost two-thirds say it has affected their churches negatively.

LifeWay Research asked 1,000 pastors about the economy's effect on their churches and found that 56 percent described it somewhat negatively and 8 percent very negatively. Nine percent reported a positive effect on their churches and one-quarter said the economy was having "no impact on my church."

"Pastor views on the economy are similar to many economic outlook surveys," said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. "We weren't surprised the current perspective of economic impact on churches is predominantly negative."

A Gallup poll released Tuesday found that 43 percent of Americans call the country's economic conditions "poor," compared to 13 percent who say they are "good" or "excellent." Almost 6 in 10 expect the economy to worsen and 35 percent perceive improvement.

Church, teachings at forefront with Catholic vice presidential candidates


For the first time in history, Catholic will oppose Catholic on the presidential tickets of the two major political parties. With Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate and incumbent Vice President Joe Biden for the Democrats, the role of the Catholic church and its teachings is guaranteed to be front and center in the fall campaign.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan asks candidates to sign civility pledge


NEW YORK -- Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who sparked controversy by agreeing to deliver the closing blessing at the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., this week, on Monday drew further attention to his political role by asking both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama to sign a civility pledge promoted by a leading conservative Catholic activist.

Republicans can find religion in not-so-religious Tampa


Tampa, Fla., is the GOP's choice for its four-day national convention, which begins Monday. But despite the Republicans' warm relations with so-called "values voters," the city on the bay does not enjoy a reputation as a particularly prayerful town.

A 2006 study showed Tampa to have the third most strip clubs per capita in the U.S. And a 2010 ranking of more than 50 metropolitan areas placed Tampa-St. Petersburg next to last in the percentage of people who identify themselves as religious adherents -- just ahead of Portland, Ore.

(Charlotte, host city for the Democratic National Convention, ranked 18th.)

But just because Tampa may lack a great religious reputation doesn't mean it lacks a meaningful religious life. For those who need a break from the nominating and speechifying during convention week, there are some ways to find spiritual sustenance, even if you're just watching the proceedings from afar.



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