Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In the News: Little Sisters of Poor and Affordable Care Act, German Catholics on Vatican Questionnaire, Pope and Rolling Stone

A mid-week selection of articles about themes Catholic that have caught my eye in the past few days:

1. As the Supreme Court continues the injunction permitting the Little Sisters of the Poor to refuse to comply with the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act, the National Coalition of American Nuns issues an open letter asking why the U.S. Catholic bishops are using groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor "to hold hostage all women by refusing insurance to them for contraceptives."

The open letter concludes,

The goal of NCAN is to study, work and speak out on issues of Justice in Society and Church. We support women as moral agents able to make the right choices for their own bodies. We also know that women do not have full membership in churches and societies that keep women and our daughters poor and separated because of their gender. A society or church that disregards a person because of her gender does this to all of its members.

2. At Religion Dispatches, Patricia Miller notes that the argument the Little Sisters of the Poor are bringing to the Supreme Court (that is, that signing a form to transfer their provision of contraceptives to employees to a third party) would prohibit any Catholic involvement in any secular enterprise that could be construed as cooperation with evil in even the most remote sense possible:

The sisters are making only an indirect causal contribution to the provision of contraception, which is remote material cooperation. This isn’t simply allowable under Catholic moral theology, it’s what makes participation in a secular world possible for Catholics. Otherwise they’d have to refuse to pay their taxes if any of their money went toward abortion (which some still can), or an unjust war, or the death penalty. 

3. At Iglesia Descalza, Rebel Girl reports on Der Spiegel's summary of the response of German Catholics to the Vatican's questionnaire about contraception, same-sex marriage, and family, in preparation for the Synod on the Family: 

While the full text of the article is only available by subscription (or by purchasing a print copy of the magazine), the gist of it has been published in several other news outlets including, in Spanish, on Religion Digital. Among the findings: 
• 69% of German Catholics admit they don't respect the teachings of the Church in this area. 
• 86% think that the use of artificial contraception is not a sin. 
• 63% of divorced and remarried (without annulment) Catholics admit to taking communion, which is prohibited by the Church, believing it is their right to do so. 
The Federation of German Catholic Youth administered the survey to 10,000 of its members and reported that 96% of them are indifferent to the Church's teaching on sexual morality and that premarital sex and use of birth control are normal parts of their lives and not considered sinful.   

4. And Pope Francis makes the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, with an article by Mark Binelli examining what the change in papal style from Benedict to Francis seems to many folks to be all about. This vignette early in the article, reporting on Francis's remarks at an audience in St. Peter's Square last December, strikes me:

The topic of Francis' catechesis, or teaching, is Judgment Day, though, true to form, he does not try to conjure images of fire and brimstone. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, speaking on the topic, once said, "Today we are used to thinking: 'What is sin? God is great, he understands us, so sin does not count; in the end God will be good toward all.' It's a nice hope. But there is justice, and there is real blame." 
Francis, 77, by contrast, implores the crowd to think of the prospect of meeting one's maker as something to look forward to, like a wedding, where Jesus and all of the saints in heaven will be waiting with open arms. He looks up from his script twice to repeat key lines: avanti senza paura ("go without fear") and che quel giudizio finale è già in atto ("the final judgment is already happening"). Coming from this pope, the latter point sounds more like a friendly reminder. His voice is disarmingly gentle, even when amplified over a vast public square.

A cloistered Spanish Dominican nun, when asked about same-sex marriage, replies

I always ask myself what Jesus would do, and he always blessed people. He never cursed them. Marriage and love are always blessed. That they refuse to elevate it to the status of a sacrament institutionally is something else. It will take many years for that. I don't feel able to condemn anyone. We are called to bless any kind of love. He who doesn't bless, curses. And that's a sin.

And some followers of Christ respond to her remarks with fury, since the Jesus they've conjured up in their heads is a mirror image of themselves and has nothing at all to do with the gospels: he has a whip in hand and is positively itching to whip the homosexuals into submission. Though the real Jesus, the one remembered by the gospel writers, never said a single word about the topic, while teaching us over and over again--as Sister Lucia Caram points out quite simply--to bless and not curse. And though the only time in the gospels he does take a whip in hand is when he cleanses the temple of the moneychangers, as he denounces their greed and the way they feed off the poor . . . .

The response of some Christians to a cloistered Dominican nun's simple citation of the gospels demonstrates to me that we surely do need some kind of shift within the Christian institution these days--before it becomes simply impossible for many people to hear the gospel at all any longer. Due to the way in which some of Christ's loudest followers have chosen to wrap the gospel up in their hate and fear of those who happen to be gay (or female; or whatever) . . . .

(Thanks to Jim McCrea for emailing me a copy of the Rolling Stone article.)

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