Rumors of a Vatican Reversal on Contraception Are Highly Exaggerated

The headlines are optimistic:

“Pope Francis adviser hints at rethink on contraception ban” (The Telegraph)

“Pope in battle to win acceptance for contraception, divorcees, and annulments” (Irish Central)

“Vatican might OK contraception” (Joe. My. God)

Dig a little deeper into the story, though, and the truth is a lot less exciting. As is often the case, a well-known Vatican official says something off-the-cuff and the media, not always able to provide context, reads into it more than is actually there.

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Chicago’s New Archbishop Blase Cupich Is Indeed a Mini-Pope Francis… but That’s Not a Good Thing

Vatican-watchers have their eyes on America as Pope Francis just appointed his most recent archbishop. The pontiff has chosen the Bishop of Spokane, Blase Cupich (pronounced “SOO-pitch”), to replace the aging (and reportedly ill) Cardinal Francis George.

Pundits are calling Archbishop-designate Cupich (below) a “moderate voice,” even trumpeting the decision as a decisive blow against conservative Catholic political positions. TIME‘s online coverage of Cupich’s appointment lauds him as a cleric cut from the same cloth as the well-liked pontiff:



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Canadian Secular Alliance Releases Video in Their Campaign to End Public Prayers at City Council Meetings

The Canadian Secular Alliance is getting ready to exercise its intervenor status in the Saguenay prayer case, in which Quebec Humanist Alain Simoneau is trying to have prayer and religious imagery in public meetings declared a violation of non-Christians’ rights to freedom of conscience.

At this juncture, the organization has decided to revisit the past experiences of three Canadian secularists who also sought to keep municipal politics inclusive by booting prayer out of public meetings.

They interviewed Veronica Abbass, Peter Ferguson, and the late Dagmar Gontard-Zelinkova, as well as Secular Ontario president Sheila Ayala, and pulled the interviews together to form this mini-documentary (followed by full-length raw-footage videos for context).



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The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Included Atheism in Its Definition of “Creed,” but It Was the Right Move

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled last year that protection from discrimination based on belief extends to atheists as well as religious people. It is no longer permissible to discriminate against someone who “rejects one, many, or all religions’ beliefs and practices or believes there is no deity.”

Moreover, in schools where Gideons International gives away free Bibles, atheists may also distribute literature to children.



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Are Catholic Priests Obligated to Report Confessions Involving Abuse? The Supreme Court May Soon Decide

It’s a long-standing tradition: What’s revealed to a priest in the sacrament of confession cannot be repeated or shared with anyone else. They call it the Seal of Confession. Up until recently, the law accepted this as moral and desirable.

But that tradition has now been called into question and the Supreme Court may end up ruling on it.

The Diocese of Baton Rouge has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision by the State of Louisiana Supreme Court, in which local priest Father Jeff Bayhi was punished for failing to report the sexual abuse of one of his young female parishioners, which the child in question allegedly disclosed during a confession in 2008. The abuser (another parishioner, not a priest) is now dead, but the girl’s parents have sued him — as well as Father Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge — for the priest’s failure to report the abuse to authorities, as per the state’s mandatory reporting laws. The family alleges that Bayhi’s silence allowed the abuse to continue until the abuser died.

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