By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – A coalition of noteworthy Christian leaders and thinkers is asking President Barack Obama and congressional leaders to protect the poor from the forced spending cuts that are due to take effect this week.
The group’s open letter frames budget decisions as a moral question for lawmakers and asks them to stop the political brinksmanship.
“Important choices must be made: we must weigh the benefits of tax credits for low-income people and tax breaks for high income people; of nutrition assistance to low-income families and subsidies to agricultural businesses,” the letter says. “Congress can and must develop a balanced and thoughtful path forward that protects the most vulnerable and preserves economic opportunity.”
The group is called Circle of Protection, and it goes on to ask lawmakers to “maintain a Circle of Protection around effective programs focused on hungry and poor people in our country and around the world.”
Founded nearly two years ago, the groups boasts a politically diverse group of almost 100 Christian leaders, including Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Jim Wallis, president of the group Sojourners.
By John L. Allen Jr., CNN Senior Vatican Analyst
Suffice it to say that of all possible storylines to emerge, heading into the election of a new pope, sensational charges of a shadowy "gay lobby" (possibly linked to blackmail), whose occult influence may have been behind the resignation of Benedict XVI, would be right at the bottom of the Vatican's wish list.
Proof of the Vatican's irritation came with a blistering statement Saturday complaining of "unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories," even suggesting the media is trying to influence the papal election.
Two basic questions have to be asked about all this. First, is there really a secret dossier about a network of people inside the Vatican who are linked by their sexual orientation, as Italian newspaper reports have alleged? Second, is this really why Benedict XVI quit?
The best answers, respectively, are "maybe" and "probably not."
It's a matter of record that at the peak of last year's massive Vatican leaks crisis, Benedict XVI created a commission of three cardinals to investigate the leaks. They submitted an eyes-only report to the pope in mid-December, which has not been made public.
Rome (CNN) - Scotland's Roman Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, has resigned amid allegations that he abused four men studying to be priests in the 1980s.
It is the second potential scandal to emerge amid preparations for the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI this week and the concave to select a successor.
In addition to O'Brien's resignation, Italian media has been abuzz in recent days with allegations that gay clergy may have made themselves vulnerable to blackmail by male prostitutes. That has set off speculation - denied by the Vatican - that a brewing scandal may have triggered Benedict's resignation.
O'Brien said he submitted his resignation to the pope months ago, citing his upcoming 75th birthday and his health, according to a statement released by the Scottish Catholic Media Office. Benedict accepted his resignation last week, the Vatican said Monday.
The resignation follows a Sunday report by the British newspaper The Observer that three priests and one former priest leveled allegations against O'Brien that date back 30 years.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.