Members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gather for Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption on Nov. 11, 2013, at the start of their annual fall meeting in Baltimore. Photo by Nancy Phelan Wiechec, courtesy Catholic News Servicevice

Catholic bishops challenged to adapt to Pope Francis’ priorities

BALTIMORE (RNS) As they began their annual fall meeting on Monday, the U.S. Catholic bishops heard a pointed challenge from Pope Francis’ personal representative to be pastors and not ideologues — the first step in what could be a laborious process to reshape the hierarchy to meet the pope’s dramatic shift in priorities.

cardinal timothy dolan

Catholic bishops reject new contraception proposals

(RNS) The nation’s Catholic bishops on Thursday (Feb. 7) rejected the Obama administration’s latest proposals to broaden the religious exemptions and accommodations in regulations that will require insurance companies or employers to provide free birth control coverage.

Obama fails to win over religious conservatives on contraception mandate

When the Obama administration announced mandatory coverage of contraceptives in January of last year as part of sweeping healthcare reform, religious conservatives were incensed. Roman Catholics were angry because the church prohibits use of birth control, even though most congregants ignore the teaching. Evangelicals were upset because religious non-profits were not exempt from the mandate, which also covers drugs that induce abortions. The two faith communities found themselves to be valuable allies. In response, the administration announced an accommodation for faith-based nonprofits that would not require those organizations to pay for the coverage. Instead, employees could obtain private, stand-alone policies from third parties that provide the same services at no cost.