From the RNS archives: Catholic birth control decree remains controversial

This article was written in 2008, around the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the papal document that reinforced the Catholic Church's ban on artificial birth control.  c. 2008 Religion News Service (RNS) Some say Pope Paul VI predicted the dangers of loosening sexual morals: widespread divorce, disease and promiscuity. Others say he cracked open a culture of dissent that has seeped into every corner of the church. Either way, 40 years after Paul VI released “Humanae Vitae'' on July 25, 1968, the papal encylical banning most forms of birth control continues to be a flashpoint in the Catholic Church. Earlier this year, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said Humanae Vitae set up “a direct conflict between many people's experience … and the authority of the church.'' “We have then the beginning of the dissolution of the teaching authority of the church, with consequences we still live with,'' said George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Billy Graham released from hospital

(RNS) Evangelist Billy Graham returned to his North Carolina home Tuesday (Dec. 6) after a six-day stay in a nearby hospital where he was treated for pneumonia. Graham, 93, responded well to antibiotics and grew stronger and more mobile after physical therapy, said Dr. Mark Hellrich, the pulmonologist who treated Graham at Mission Hospital in Asheville. “I am especially looking forward to seeing my home decorated for Christmas and spending the holidays with members of my family,” Graham said in a hospital statement. He also expressed thanks for “the many thoughts and prayers expressed by individuals across the country and around the world” during his hospital stay.

Church wrestles with growth of Wisconsin shrine to Mary

CHAMPION, Wis. (RNS) Philip and Barbara Hesselbein came to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help to pray for a grandson who has an inoperable brain tumor. Darlene Searcy prayed for her family and for herself; she has cancer. Mary Spakowicz, who also has cancer, came “because God will hear me here.” The afflicted and the faithful have long made pilgrimages to the quiet country site where Belgian immigrant Adele Brise said in 1859 that she saw the Virgin Mary three times.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Southern Baptists, change thy name

CHAMPION, Wis. (RNS) Philip and Barbara Hesselbein came to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help to pray for a grandson who has an inoperable brain tumor. Darlene Searcy prayed for her family and for herself; she has cancer. Mary Spakowicz, who also has cancer, came “because God will hear me here.” The afflicted and the faithful have long made pilgrimages to the quiet country site where Belgian immigrant Adele Brise said in 1859 that she saw the Virgin Mary three times.

Monday Godbytes

Daniel Macguire over at Religion Dispatches asks if there is a Catholic “turnabout” on abortion. In other Catholic news, Tom Beaudoin over at America Magazine wonders what would happen if “Occupy Wall Street” happened within the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, CNN reports that the trial of Youcef Nadarkhani – a Christian pastor recently sentenced to death in Iran for apostacy – is going all the way to the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. David French at the Washington Post is making “the evangelical case” for Mormon GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Finally, in what is CLEARLY the most important religion news of the day: Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore were spotted at religious services together!!

Crisis pregnancy group reflects Jewish divide on abortion

SILVER SPRING, Md. (RNS) Saraleah was 19 and a part-time student when she discovered she was pregnant. She didn't know how it could have happened — until she flashed back to a party nine weeks earlier where she was given a drink, realized it was vodka and then passed out. Saraleah had been raped. “i was in shock and felt like my life was over,” she wrote in an email, asking that her full name not be used.

Monday’s Religion News Roundup

Some possibly good news for Mitt Romney’s fledgling 2012 campaign: two-thirds of Americans say his Mormonism doesn’t matter, including 58 of evangelicals. But he could still face a tough road threading the eye of the needle in the evangelical-heavy early primaries: Evangelicals, more than any other group, say they’d be “less likely” to support a Mormon candidate (see page 14 of the report here). And the LA Times’ Doyle McManus probes the shifting sands of America’s religious/political landscape: In 2012, he notes, the Mainline Protestants who have for so long called 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. home won’t have a candidate in the race. Most of the GOP wannabes came to kiss the ring of Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition this weekend in D.C. And another one jumps in: Former Sen. Rick Santorum, one of the party’s most strident voices on both religion in the public square and the threat of so-called Islamofascism, made it official today.

Think you’ll need last rites? Better plan ahead

CLEVELAND (RNS) In days long gone, Roman Catholic priests regularly made deathbed house calls, even in the middle of the night with little notice, to pray over the dying and anoint them with holy oils. The candlelight ritual, popularly known as last rites, continues in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice houses and private homes. But it happens less frequently because priests — the only ones who can perform the service — are in short supply. Although fewer Catholics are seeking what’s officially known as the sacrament of anointing of the sick, those who do want it could be at risk of reaching their final hours without the prayer-whispering presence of a Roman-collared priest unless they plan ahead. “We recommend that whenever you’re ill, ask for that sacrament,” said retired Cleveland Bishop Anthony Pilla.

Thursday’s Religion News Roundup

All eyes are on Capitol Hill today as the House Committee on Homeland Security opens hearings on homegrown Islamic “radicalization.” The hearings are being live-streamed here, with a handy WaPo guide to the witnesses here. Chairman Peter King (left) opened the show by saying there’s nothing “radical or un-American” about either the hearings or his intent. NPR offers a wrap-up of the personalities involved. Some interesting chatter out there: — Columnist Patrick Roberts has an idea: if King (a Catholic) can investigate extremism among Muslims, perhaps Rep. Keith Ellison (a Muslim) should investigate abuse among Catholic priests.

Vatican to draft guidelines for Catholic hospitals

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Controversies over bioethical standards at U.S. Catholic hospitals show the need for greater Catholic education for health care workers, Vatican officials said Thursday (Feb. 3). Church leaders said a new set of biomedical guidelines will be published later this year, as well as a separate document on AIDS prevention after last year’s controversial remarks by Pope Benedict XVI on the morality of condom use. The announcement, at a press conference to publicize educational initiatives of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, did not include a publication date for the AIDS document. Bishop Jose L. Redrado, secretary of the council, said Catholic facilities are confronting a “culture of death” following disputes over a 2009 abortion at a Catholic hospital in Arizona that doctors said was necessary to save the mother’s life.

Vatican says no change to teaching on condoms, prostitutes

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI’s recent comments about condoms do not mark a change in “Catholic moral teaching” or “pastoral practice” on AIDS prevention or contraception, the Vatican said Tuesday (Dec. 21). The statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the Catholic Church’s highest doctrinal body, represents a rare official clarification of a pope’s words from a Vatican agency. Tuesday’s statement comes in response to widespread controversy and confusion over Benedict’s remarks about condoms in “Light of the World,” a book-length interview with the pope published late last month. Some commentators interpreted Benedict’s words to constitute a reversal of the church’s long-standing opposition to condom use for disease prevention, and even a possible shift in Catholic teaching against contraception more generally.