October 14th, 2014
12:46 PM ET
Rome (CNN) - Under furious assault from conservative Catholics, the Vatican backtracked Tuesday on its surprisingly positive assessment of gays and same-sex relationships.
In a report Monday, the Vatican had said that gays and lesbians have "gifts to offer" the Christian community and acknowledged that same-sex couples can give "precious support" to one other.
The statement, an interim report from a closely watched meeting of Catholic clergy here, was widely praised by liberals. It is believed to be the first time the Vatican has said anything positive about gay relationships.
One longtime Vatican journalist called the statement a "pastoral earthquake."
But many conservatives complained that the statement watered down church teaching and did not accurately reflect their discussions here, where nearly 200 Catholic leaders are meeting to debate pastoral approaches to modern family life.FULL STORY
October 3rd, 2014
12:04 PM ET
By Delia Gallagher, CNN
Rome (CNN) – More than 200 Catholic bishops, priests and laypeople from around the world gathered in Rome this weekend to begin discussing Catholic teachings on a range of hot-button topics, from contraception and same-sex unions to polygamy and communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.
The issues, which the Vatican places under the heading of “pastoral challenges of the family,” were chosen based on the results of a worldwide survey of Catholics in 2013.
Pope Francis called the meeting, known as a synod, to address modern issues facing families today – a topic that he has made a priority since the beginning of his pontificate.
The Catholic Church, the Pope has said, must make sure “it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people.”
In his short time as Pope, Francis has reached out to those who previously might have felt shunned by the church because of their family circumstances.
September 30th, 2014
07:42 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog EditorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) – Husain Abdullah can kneel and pray pretty much anywhere in America he wants. Except, perhaps, for an NFL end zone.
The Kansas City Chiefs' safety and devout Muslim was flagged for "unsportsmanlike conduct" after sliding to his knees in prayer to celebrate a touchdown Monday night.
On Tuesday, the NFL said the referee botched the call.
"Husain Abdullah should not have been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct," said Michael Signora, a league spokesman.
The rules prohibit players from celebrating while on the ground, but officials should not "flag a player who goes to the ground as part of a religious celebration," Signora added.
As many observers have noted, Christian players often celebrate by kneeling in prayer after making big plays.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, called on the NFL to make its rules about on-field celebrations more clear.
“To prevent the appearance of a double standard, we urge league officials to clarify the policy on prayer and recognize that the official made a mistake in this case,” said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper.
September 24th, 2014
12:34 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog editorFollow @BurkeCNN
(CNN) - According to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashana, God decides who will live and die during the next year. For Cantor Shlomo Glick, the holy days - which begin the Jewish new year - are particularly poignant.
Not only does Glick, who lives in Jerusalem, stand at the front of synagogues and sing solemn prayers on Rosh Hashana, but he is an EMT for United Hatazalah, a volunteer emergency service.
Glick, 36, spoke to CNN via email about his spiritual and secular roles - including a time he stopped religious services to treat a man in cardiac arrest.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: For people who might not know, can you explain a bit about the role of a cantor?
A: A cantor leads Jewish congregations in prayer. We are professional singers who have extensively studied the order and meaning of the prayers in addition to how to carry our voices. A good cantor tailors the tunes and style of prayer with the audience to ensure that everybody sings in unison and finds meaning in the service.
Q: Which job, EMT or cantor, do you think is more important?
A: I love performing and inspiring people in prayer, but there is no greater feeling than saving a life.
Q: You work closely with human frailty. Does that make the High Holy Days more poignant for you?
September 23rd, 2014
05:35 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN) - The Vatican announced on Tuesday that it has placed a former ambassador under house arrest while he faces charges for "serious acts of abuse of minors."
Jozef Wesolowski is accused of molesting young boys during his stint as the pope's official representative in the Dominican Republic. Wesolowski had been appointed to the post in 2008 by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
The former envoy, who was defrocked by the Vatican in June, is one of the highest-ranking church officials to be accused of abusing children during the Catholic Church's widespread and costly sexual abuse scandal. It is the first time a top Vatican ambassador has faced such charges.
Wesolowski's arrest, the Vatican said Tuesday, "is a result of the express desire of the Pope, so that a case so serious and delicate would be addressed without delay."
Francis has pledged to maintain a policy of "zero tolerance" for Catholic clergy who abuse children.
Wesolowski's case provides a high-profile chance for the Pope, who has been accused by some victims' groups of downplaying the sexual abuse scandal, to take concrete action against one of the Vatican's own.
The Vatican said that Wesolowski suffers from an unnamed but medically documented health condition, and will be placed under house arrest in Vatican City, which is a sovereign state.
Pressure had been building on the Vatican to proceed with criminal charges against Wesolowski, a Polish native ordained by Saint John Paul II, since the accusations against him became public.
That pressure intensified when The New York Times reported last month that Wesolowski had been seen walking freely about Rome.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture has also urged the Vatican to move swiftly on Wesolowski. A report by the committee in May noted that Poland had reportedly asked for the archbishop's extradition.
Under Vatican law, Wesolowski, if found guilty, could face a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison.
September 23rd, 2014
12:30 PM ET
(CNN) - The football coach at a publicly funded charter school in Arizona has been suspended after directing a player to lead a team prayer.
One side says it's a violation of the coach's religious liberty. The other says it's a violation of the players' rights to have a religion-free locker room.
Watch the video above to see more.
September 21st, 2014
09:44 AM ET
Opinion by Amy-Jill Levine, special to CNN
(CNN) – It was once said, “religion is designed to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.”
Jesus’ parables – short stories with moral lessons – were likewise designed to afflict, to draw us in but leave us uncomfortable.
These teachings can be read as being about divine love and salvation, sure. But, their first listeners – first century Jews in Galilee and Judea – heard much more challenging messages.
Only when we hear the parables as Jesus’ own audience did can we fully experience their power and find ourselves surprised and challenged today.
Here are four examples of Jesus’ teachings that everybody gets wrong:
July 22nd, 2014
08:53 AM ET
Opinion by Craig Detweiler, Special to CNN
(CNN) – It is understandable why Breanna Mitchell’s sunny tweet from Auschwitz as “PrincessBMM” would spark a viral outcry.
A tour of a concentration camp, where so many Jews lost their lives, may move us to take photos or post responses – but few would include smiles, or selfies.
But Mitchell is not the first teenager to generate Internet outrage by her response to the Holocaust.
When Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House last year, he wrote in the museum guest book, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully, she would have been a Belieber.”
While many have ripped into Mitchell and Bieber for their insensitivity, I don’t think they intended to be disrespectful to the dead.
Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile devices (mobiquity!), adolescent mistakes and hard lessons that used to be learned in private can quickly devolve into public drubbings.
This is what happens when new technologies clash with ancient understandings of the sacred. The problem is so pervasive that a Tumblr site, “Selfies at Serious Places” is dedicated to such faux pas.
We have very few spaces that our culture considers sacred, where an association with the divine results in a feeling of awe or reverence. Death may seem especially abstract to young people who haven’t been shown how to grieve, mourn or respect the dead.
So how might we help the emerging generation to develop a digital decorum that accounts for sacred spaces? Can we incorporate electronic ethics into religious instruction?
June 29th, 2014
08:19 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog EditorFollow @BurkeCNN
Washington (CNN) - For the Greens, the Christian family behind the Hobby Lobby chain of stores, their battle with the Obama administration was never really about contraception. It was about abortion.
After all, the evangelical Greens don't object to 16 of the 20 contraceptive measures mandated for employer coverage by the Affordable Care Act. That puts the family squarely in line with other evangelicals, who largely support the use of birth control by married couples.
Like other evangelicals, however, the Greens believe that four forms of contraception mandated under the ACA - Plan B, Ella and two intrauterine devices - in fact cause abortions by preventing a fertilized embryo from implanting in the womb. (The Obama administration and several major medical groups disagree that such treatments are abortions .)
“We won’t pay for any abortive products," Steve Green, Hobby Lobby's president, told Religion News Service. "We believe life begins at conception.”
June 25th, 2014
08:51 AM ET
(CNN) – The Pennsylvania minister who was defrocked for officiating his son's same-sex wedding was reinstated Tuesday by the United Methodist Church.
The Rev. Frank Schaefer, pastor at Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon, had his credentials restored and is now entitled to lost salary and benefits since his defrocking in December, according to a written decision released by the church.
Church changes its marriage definition Ten years of same-sex marriage
Schaefer was waiting for a phone call to inform him of the church's verdict, when he received the happy news as an e-mail attachment.
He opened up the PDF.
"I had to scroll all the way to the bottom to find out what the verdict was, and the verdict was that I am reinstated as an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church," he told a group of people.
They broke into applause.
Schaefer was suspended for 30 days following his initial trial, with the condition that after his suspension he was to deliver a written report assuring the judiciary board that going forward he would never officiate another same-sex wedding. When Schaefer refused to do so, he was defrocked.
Schaefer told CNN then that he could not commit to a statement like that because he has two more children who are gay.FULL STORY
About this blog
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.