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Legion women's leader resigns as Maciel empire continues to crumble

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By Associated Press, Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 3:14 PM

VATICAN CITY — The female branch of the scandal-plagued Legionaries of Christ religious order was in turmoil Tuesday following the resignation of its leader and the decision of some 30 members to split from the movement.

Malen Oriol announced in a letter Sunday that she had asked to resign as the assistant to the general director of the Legion, which Pope Benedict XVI took over in 2010 after the order revealed its late founder had sexually molested seminarians and fathered three children.

Read the entire story here.

Letter decrying contraception compromise attracts bishops, professors

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A letter calling President Barack Obama’s revision of a controversial mandate regarding coverage of contraceptive services in health care plans “morally obtuse” has gained some 215 signatures from a number of notable professors and religious leaders.

Among the signees are Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ken.

The letter, titled “Unacceptable,” says the revision of the mandate “fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy.”

“The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization,” it continues. “This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.”

Also among the signees to the letter are professors from several Catholic universities, including Villanova, Gonzaga, Loyola University Chicago, the University of San Diego, The Catholic University of America, and the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Single on Valentine's Day?

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No, not me. But I haven't been married that long that I can't remember what it was like to be single and looking for a life partner. Back then I dreaded Valentine's Day.

If only I had had the grace-filled, trusting outlook of Beth Knobbe, a Chicago campus minister and author who is living an "intentional single life."

No, she is not a nun.

She just believes that being single can be incredibly fulfilling. And she is not dreading Valentine's Day. As she writes on her blog, "One Single Life":

"Several years ago, I gave up dating all together – a decision over which I have no regrets. I will be single for Valentine’s Day again this year. And it will be glorious! I’m not waiting to get married, not hoping to get hitched, not on the prowl for someone else to satisfy my needs. I don’t miss the days of being absorbed in a never-ending pursuit of a life partner."

British Muslim pol tells pope, 'Europe needs confident Christians'

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ROME -- When you’re talking about the Vatican, it’s a good idea to be careful about using the word “unprecedented.” Over hundreds of years of history, almost everything has happened at least once.

tThis afternoon, however, brought something you definitely don’t see every day: A prominent Muslim woman standing in the heart of Rome, opining that Europe needs to become “more confident in its Christianity.”

tBaroness Sayeeda Warsi, a cabinet minister in the U.K. and the highest-ranking Muslim woman in the West, made that case before present and future Vatican diplomats at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome. She spoke as part of a high-level delegation of U.K. officials in town for working meetings with Vatican officials.

tPope Benedict XVI, whom Warsi will meet tomorrow, previously has proposed a grand “Alliance of Civilizations” with Islam, one thrust of which is that Christians and Muslims should be natural allies against radical currents of secularism seeking to exclude religion from public life.

Today’s speech amounted to a signal that at least one influential British Muslim, and a woman to boot, is ready to sign on.

An embarrassing campaign gone awry

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I have to cringe every time I read the latest front page headline or see the TV update on the biggest Catholic story of 2012 -- the U.S. bishops' struggle for "religious freedom." However, it turns out, whether the hierarchy wins the day, the Obama administration triumphs or there's a satisfactory compromise, this roiling controversy is an embarrassment.

Why, people wonder, would the bishops spend what little public relations capital they have at this point in history by battling against contraceptive coverage in insurance plans for employees of church-related organizations? It's like this is the fight they've been hungering for, like the Armageddon clash between absolute good and absolute evil, as if the very essence of Catholicism is on the line and our backs are up against the wall.

Kathy Kelly: A Valentine message from Afghanistan

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February 14, 2012

It's Valentine's Day, and opening the little cartoon on the Google page brings up a sentimental animation with Tony Bennett singing "why can't I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart."

Here in Dubai, where I’m awaiting a visa to visit Afghanistan, the weather is already warm and humid. But my bags are packed with sweaters because Kabul is still reeling from the coldest winter on record. Two weeks ago, eight children under age five froze to death there in one of the sprawling refugee camps inhabited by so many who have fled from the battles in other provinces. Since January 15, at least 23 children under 5 have frozen to death in the camps.

And just over a week ago, eight young shepherds, all but one under 14 years of age, lit a fire for warmth on the snowy Afghan mountainside in Kapisa Province where they were helping support their families by grazing sheep. French troops saw the fire, and acted on faulty information, and the boys were all killed in two successive NATO airstrikes. The usual denunciations from local authorities, and Western apologies, followed. (Trend News, February 10, 2012).

Bishops are not 'Obama haters,' Dolan insists

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ROME -- Insisting that the Catholic bishops of America are not “Obama haters,” soon-to-be Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said this morning that while the bishops regard a recent compromise on insurance mandates announced by the administration as unacceptable, he’s committed to “dialogue” and a “posture of openness” in trying to reach agreement.

tThere’s still “a little glimmer of hope,” Dolan said, that an acceptable solution can be found.

Vatican appeals for calm in teeth of leaks and scandals

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ROME --tIn effect, the Vatican spokesperson addressed a plea to the media Monday night. Facing a seemingly never-ending series of leaks of confidential documents, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi called on the press to “make careful distinctions,” to not “just throw everything together,” and to not allow the reality of the situation to be “swallowed up in a whirlpool of confusion.”

tBetting houses did not immediately open a line on the odds of calm prevailing, but they would have to be astronomic.

tIn recent days, confidential correspondence related to charges of corruption and cronyism in Vatican finances, internal memos suggesting loopholes in a new papal anti-money laundering law, and even an anonymous letter hinting at a plot to kill the pope have all created media sensations.

Though in each case the Vatican has played down, even ridiculed, the content of the documents, they’ve also been forced to admit that the documents themselves are authentic.

An Accomplishment for the American Catholic Laity

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Whatever else the Obama compromise on birth control may turn out to be, it is a singular triumph of U.S. Catholic laity.

Bishops touched off the public furor by claiming that the original Obama mandate infringed on their religious rights, but the White House took its cue from the laity's acceptance and use of artificial birth control to craft a solution that has largely carried the day.

Except for the bishops who sidelined themselves by resisting the proposal and, as it were, stubbornly insisting that they still held clout.

The polls consistently have shown that a majority of Catholic citizens support the availability of means of contraception, personally and in principle. While Obama heeded the bishops' warnings that the original mandate was an intrusion, the President followed the laity's lead in deciding a proper outcome.

That's no small victory for the collective conscience of Catholic lay people. In the past, politicians tended to take directions from bishops. This policy struggle is, therefore, a departure from looking only to the top for what Catholics stand for.

I blame myself and everyone like me

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I feel like an idiot.

When the U.S. bishops came out so strongly against the new government rules regarding contraceptives and health insurance, they said the issue was one of religious freedom.

And I believed them.

When the bishops argued that it was not the administration's place to decide whether Catholic hospitals or colleges fit the "faith mission" exception to the insurance rule, it made sense to me.

And I believed them.

I thought the bishops were trying to make an argument apart from the politics of the moment, separate from the polarizing stances they have so often taken in the last few years, stances that had placed them in league with odd allies from the far right.

I feel like an idiot.

After the Obama administration announced adjustments to the contraception rule that would remove the church from directly having to pay for contraceptive coverage in health plans, many Catholics responded with relief, including Catholic Charities and the Catholic Health Association. The bishops' objections seemed understood, and the public at large was not denied access.

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