By Jon O’Brien

Jon O'Brien, President of Catholics for Choice

Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice

Every time there’s a papal election, Catholics and non-Catholics alike turn their eyes to Rome, and sometimes wonder why they do so. Those who are not Catholic, and those who are, may feel alienated by what they hear from the Vatican when a pope is firmly in place, so why pay attention to cardinals jockeying (secretly) for power? The reason is that the person who sits on the Throne of St. Peter matters. Though he may reside in tiny Vatican City, the pope and his representatives are in nearly everyone’s backyard: through the global reach of Catholic healthcare, a privileged role at the United Nations, as the head of a church a billion strong, and because what he says generally makes the papers. And though we don’t have a vote in the conclave, when the white smoke billows out of the Sistine Chapel, we all have a stake in the result.

For example, Catholic healthcare provides approximately 25 percent of all AIDS care worldwide. Here you can see some of the best of Catholic values in practice, but unfortunately they are often held back by some of the hierarchy’s worst ideas. As pretty much everyone knows, doctors, nurses, and counselors at Catholic facilities are often forbidden to distribute condoms as part of HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment programs. So despite the best intentions of healthcare providers, and notwithstanding the fact that the money used for these programs comes from many people who absolutely know condoms are critical in the fight against AIDS, patients just can’t get what they need because the Vatican bans condoms. Read More…

The Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned from offering same-sex marriages, the government has announced.

All other religious organisations will be able to “opt in” to offering ceremonies, Culture Secretary Maria Miller told MPs, but it will be illegal for the Church of England to offer gay marriage ceremonies.

The first gay weddings could take place in just over a year’s time after the Coalition Government detailed its plans this afternoon to legalise same-sex marriages.

In an attempt to pacify hostile religious leaders and win round Tory opponents, ministers announced a series of safeguards for churches and places of worship that do not want to conduct the ceremonies.

Read the full story in The Independent.


Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham

Several news outlets in the UK are reporting that Bishop of Durham Justin Welby is to replace Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury. The report has not yet been confirmed by the Crown Nominations Committee. Welby, a former oil executive, has less than a year experience as a bishop, and only took his first steps toward the clergy in the 1990s.

The selection of Welby, who opposes gay marriage, would represent a marked right-ward shift from the liberal leadership of current Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop of the Church of England, and the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Rowan Williams, who is a poet and theologian as well as a bishop, has held the office since 2003. In March, Williams announced that he would step down at the end of the year to take the position of Master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University. Read More…