By Rafael Romo and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
(CNN) – The threatening calls reportedly came one after the other to Mexico's main Catholic seminary.
Callers, claiming to be from one of the country's feared drug cartels, offered an ominous warning: Pay up if you value the safety of your priests.
"They called several times. They identified themselves as the Familia Michoacana, but who knows?" Cardinal Norberto Rivera, archbishop of Mexico City, revealed at a Mass this week. "I spoke with the authorities. We made the appropriate report. Because they wanted us to pay. Because if not, they would kill one of us. They wanted to extort 60,000 pesos ($4,600)."
Reports of extortion have become increasingly common as drug cartels expand their reach in Mexico. But public denouncements of such attempts are rare.
By the CNN Belief Blog Editors
(CNN) - The Vatican said Wednesday it has suspended a German bishop who has come under fire for his extravagant lifestyle.
Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-Van Elst is under investigation for his spending after his residence in Limburg, Germany, was renovated for $42 million.
The Vatican says Tebartz-Van Elst cannot carry out his ministry as long as the investigation in ongoing, and he's been ordered to stay outside his diocese.
Coined the "Bling Bishop," Tebartz-Van Elst, who is known as theologically conservative, has denied any wrongdoing, saying the cost overruns on the renovation are legitimate because surrounding structures had to be protected, including the old city wall.
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) -- Declaring himself "American's most famous Catholic," comedian Stephen Colbert roasted church leaders at a charity event in New York on Thursday, taking aim at Pope Francis and Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
"As an observant Catholic, I believe the Pope is infallible," said Colbert, a Communion-class teacher at a parish in New Jersey. "But he's also wrong about a lot of things."
Colbert, whose bombastic persona on the "Colbert Report" often takes a conservative slant on Christianity, poked fun at the new Pope's humble lifestyle, saying that if the pontiff were in charge of the white-tie charity event, it would have been held at an IHOP, not New York's glitzy Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN)–With the goal of urging the House to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the Catholic Church is organizing a targeted effort to push immigration reform in the pews and target Catholic lawmakers – particularly Republicans – who may be on the fence over the politically tenuous bill.
The movement, which was first reported in The New York Times, will include coordinated immigration reform sermons on September 8, as well as targeted messaging of Catholic lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate.
Washington (CNN) – Are Catholics who support same-sex marriage and take Communion like people who commit perjury?
That was the stance taken by Detroit's archbishop on Sunday, after an academic with ties to the church wrote that Catholics in favor of gay marriage should skip Communion.
In Sunday's Detroit Free Press, the archbishop said Catholics who both support same-sex marriage and take Communion would "logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury."
On Monday, though, the Archdiocese of Detroit tried to reframe Archbishop Allen Vigneron's comments.
“For a Catholic to receive Holy Communion and still deny the revelation Christ entrusted to the church is to try to say two contradictory things at once: 'I believe the church offers the saving truth of Jesus, and I reject what the church teaches,’ ” Vigneron told the paper. “In effect, they would contradict themselves.”
On Monday, the archdiocese looked to step back and add context to the statement.
“The archbishop's focal point here is not ‘gay marriage’; it is a Catholic’s reception of Holy Communion,” Joe Kohn, the archdiocese spokesman, wrote in an e-mail to CNN. “If a Catholic publicly opposes the church on a serious matter of the church’s teaching, any serious matter - for example, whether it be a rejection of the divinity of Christ, racist beliefs, support for abortion or support for redefining marriage - that would contradict the public affirmation they would make of the church's beliefs by receiving Communion.”
Editor's note: Sebastian Gomes, a producer at Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada, was an accredited observer to the Vatican Synod of Bishops in October. He is acting as an assistant to the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a spokesman for the Holy See during the papal transition.
By Sebastian Gomes, Special to CNN
(CNN) – Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by resigning last month, but before leaving the throne of St. Peter vacant, he seems to have spent months, if not years, charting a course for the future of the Catholic Church.
In hindsight we see how calculated Benedict’s thinking was, and not only about his resignation.
He called an unexpected consistory to be held on November 24 in which he created six new cardinals, none of them coming from Europe.
By Chris Cuomo and Eric Marrapodi, CNN
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Rome (CNN) – Crowds lined the walls and spilled out the front door of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Monte Mario on Sunday to catch a glimpse of the gregarious American Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, who smiled broadly as he came into the church, stopping to wave to photographers and kiss a baby whose parents were holding him up.
Dolan has made the short lists of some Vatican watchers as a likely choice to be elected as the next pope by the College of Cardinals, a designation called "papabili" in Italian.
A local officiant began the service by saying it was great to have Dolan at the church close to Easter.
"All these people are showing the power of the church," he said.
Dolan thanked the officiant in Italian.
By Hada Messia, Ben Wedeman and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
Rome (CNN) – The Vatican sought Saturday to tamp down rumors involving sex, money and gay priests that have been swirling in the Italian media and have been linked by some to Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign.
The strongly-worded denial came on the eve of the pope's last Angelus blessing, expected to draw huge crowds of the faithful, before he stands down on Thursday.
Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone said it was "deplorable" that as the time for the Roman Catholic cardinals to elect a new pope approaches, a rash of "often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories" has appeared.
Such unfounded stories "cause serious damage to persons and institutions," he said, and are an attempt to influence the cardinals' free will in the election "through public opinion."
Read the full story
By Ted Rowlands and Kathleen Johnston, CNN
(CNN)–He's the top Roman Catholic figure in the United States, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and one of the princes of the church who will decide on a new pope.
But Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, is now under fire for how his old archdiocese in Milwaukee shifted money as it faced lawsuits by victims of sexual abuse by priests in Wisconsin.
Dolan sat for a deposition with lawyers for some of the victims on Wednesday, the New York archdiocese confirmed. He was Milwaukee's archbishop from 2002 to 2009, a period in which the archdiocese moved $55 million into a fund for cemetery maintenance and as much as $74 million to a fund for individual parishes.
(CNN)–Pope Benedict XVI's resignation brings calls for his prosecution. CNN's Nic Robertson investigates the claims.
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.