Colorado candidate: Catholic Charities fired me over abortion support

Colorado candidate: Catholic Charities fired me over abortion support
Last week, the Fort Collins Coloradoan reported that John Kefalas was no longer the community development and social ministries coordinator (translation: lobbyist) for Catholic Charities North, which is run by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver. "Circumstances surrounding his exit remain murky," the paper reported. "Kefalas would not say whether he had quit or been fired."

The circumstances still remain murky, but not because nobody's talking. Today's Denver Post reports that Kefalas, a Democratic candidate for the Colorado state House, says he was wrongfully terminated and forced to resign. Catholic Charities, however, says he quit on his own.

Murky indeed: Kefalas isn't a Roman Catholic—he's a Mennonite who, as part of a campaign questionnaire, said he supports Roe v. Wade. (Official teaching of the Mennonite Church, by the way, says abortion "runs counter to biblical principles which give a high value to human life" but adds, "the demands of discipleship are to be accepted voluntarily, not imposed legally upon everyone regardless of conviction.")

Catholic Charities president Jim Mauck was none too pleased that his organization's lobbyist doesn't share the church's beliefs on one of its top social issues. In a Monday letter, apparently written after Kefalas and his job were parted, Mauk told him that it's "an irreconcilable conflict of interest for one in the position you held at Catholic Charities to take the public position as you did."

There's no "litmus test" for employees, Mauck told Post reporter Eric Gorski. "We do ask employees, 'Here's our value base, can you agree to those values?'"

But that question has become more specific in recent years Mauck notes. He's been in the position for six years, but the recent clergy scandals led the church to require all employees to "conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with the discipline and teachings of the Catholic Church." When the archdiocese implemented the rule, Kefalas protested. "Talking as a private citizen with some intelligence, I should be allowed to say what I want," he said. "I'm not trying to do any kind of irreparable harm to Catholic Charities. But I feel they are creating hardships for me and my family."

Irreparable harm? Wrongfully terminated? Kefalas is speaking legalese, but there's no mention of any plans to file a lawsuit.

If he does file, this will certainly be a case to watch. But if he's just whining and the story remains a matter of "he said, he said," it could die a quick death. Much may depend upon a possible recount of his primary election. Kefalas is only up by seven votes out of 4,630 (initial reports were even closer, putting Kefalas up by only two votes).

Article continues below

Another ban for the partial-birth abortion ban

Another ban for the partial-birth abortion ban
Small victories: In declaring the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Richard C. Casey called the procedure "a gruesome, brutal, barbaric, and uncivilized medical procedure," and said there's "credible evidence that [such] abortions subject fetuses to severe pain."

Casey said he was bound by a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring such a ban to contain an exception for the health of the mother. When Congress passed the law, it took note of that Supreme Court decision, adding a section explaining that the procedure is never necessary to protect a mother's health. But some doctors disagree, Casey noted—though he called much of the testimony on why it's necessary "theoretical or false."

"This gruesome procedure may be outlawed only if there exists a medical consensus that there is no circumstance in which any women could potentially benefit from it," he explained.

The abortion realities in this country, however, are no different today than they were before Casey's ruling. There was already an injunction on the ban while this case and two others make their way through the courts. A U.S. District Judge in San Francisco ruled in June that the ban is unconstitutional. A judge in Nebraska has not yet ruled. In essence, we're all just waiting for the issue to return to the U.S. Supreme Court. Attorney General John Ashcroft has promised to appeal.

"While the decision is disappointing, it's important to realize that this ruling represents only the beginning of a lengthy legal process that will end at the Supreme Court," said Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice. Other prolife organizations' responses can be read here.

More articles

Life ethics:

  • Election could turn on stem-cell issue | Bush's barriers to research will cost him votes (Robert Beckel, Los Angeles Times)
  • Calif. to vote on $3b stem cell project | Silicon Valley tycoons, Nobel laureates and Hollywood celebrities are backing a measure on California's Nov. 2 ballot to devote $3 billion to human embryonic stem cell experiments in what would be the biggest-ever state-supported scientific research program in the country (Associated Press)
Article continues below


  • Poverty rate up 3rd year in a row | More also lack health coverage (The Washington Post)
  • More Americans were uninsured and poor in 2003, census finds | The ranks of the poor and those without health insurance grew in 2003 for the third straight year, the government reported (The New York Times)
  • U.S. poverty rate up in '03, census reports | The nation's poverty rate rose by almost a half percentage point in 2003 over 2002, the U.S. Census Bureau reported yesterday, prompting Democrats to dismiss President Bush's claim of an economic recovery (The Washington Times)
  • One million join ranks of US poor | The number of Americans who slid into poverty last year rose despite US economic growth, official data shows (BBC)
  • Connecting on a personal level | Many homeless come looking for human contact as much as food, say ministry members (News-Press, Glendale, Ca.)
  • Why isn't rising poverty a key campaign issue? | It takes more than sinister political rhetoric to alleviate the plight of the poor (Adrienne Washington, The Washington Times)


  • Dying in Darfur | Arab militias have killed tens of thousands of Sudanese over the past several months in the Darfur region of the country. (NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, PBS)
  • Militias 'still active' in Darfur | Sudan is allowing armed pro-government groups to operate at least 16 militia camps in the western region of Darfur, a human rights group claims (BBC)
  • Sudan's move in civil war shows pressure is working, Danforth says | Government approves of more foreign troops to watch troubled area (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  • We have the resources to save many lives | We are once again sitting by, watching, indifferent (Hannah Rosenthal, South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Church attacks:

  • Church attacked | A mob attacked a Catholic church in Raikia town today about 72 km from here, smashed statues and set ablaze a truck parked outside the church. This followed protest by some Christians against the removal of the fencing (to plant trees) erected outside the church, police said (The Hindu, India)
  • Mob attacks Catholic church in Orissa | At least 300 people broke into the church premises and smashed a number of statues of Virgin Mary and angels besides doors and glass panes (Press Trust of India)
  • Bomb damages church in northern Cyprus | A bomb exploded before dawn in a Greek Orthodox church in Turkish-occupied north Cyprus on Friday, causing damage but no injuries, authorities said (Associated Press)
Article continues below

Church and state:

  • When state rules, church dwindles | Turkish law will make it hard to replace Bartholomew, head of the Eastern Orthodox Church (The Christian Science Monitor)
  • Will Canada introduce Sharia law? | Canada is a country well-known for being committed to multiculturalism, but now this most accepting of countries is debating whether tolerance has its limits (BBC)
  • Losing liberty | Religious freedom is under attack in the Western democracies—and in the name of human rights (Gene Edward Veith, World)


  • Democrats rely on non-religious voters | After years of talk about the close ties between religious conservatives and the Republican Party coalition, an opposite factor is gaining wider notice: the Democrats' reliance upon non-religious voters (Associated Press)
  • Saved and savior | A born-again president vs. an always-perfect candidate (Marvin Olasky, World)
  • Religion held to supporting role in convention | One of the constituencies President Bush must have to win re-election will be conspicuous by its absence in prime time at next week's Republican convention in New York (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
  • Local pastor trumps Falwell on politics | I met two Jerry Falwells on Monday night during the Vision America fund-raiser in Lufkin (Marc R. Masferrer, Lufkin Daily News, Tex.)

GOP platform:

  • Conservatives pull GOP platform to right | In Republican platform deliberations, moderates made much of the noise but conservatives proposed most of the amendments (Associated Press)
  • GOP keeps peace with platform that supports Bush | Concessions are made on abortion, gay marriage (The Washington Post)
  • Bush team keeps conservative agenda in check | President Bush's strategists outmaneuvered conservatives at every turn in Republican platform proceedings here, achieving nearly total success in pushing through the planks favored by the president's re-election campaign (The Washington Times)
  • Committee adopts draft; some grumble | The process left both liberals and conservatives in the party grumbling over novel tactics like limiting access to the text and the names of the roughly 110 committee members (The New York Times)

Same-sex marriage:

  • Gay marriage ruling still in crosshairs | Protesters want the 4 responsible off the high court (The Boston Globe)
  • Sandoval County clerk loses bid to resume issuing same-sex licenses | State District Judge Louis McDonald refused Wednesday to toss out state Attorney General Patricia Madrid's request for a permanent injunction to prevent Dunlap from issuing the licenses (The New Mexican, Santa Fe)
Article continues below
  • Also: Another loss for same-sex licenses (Albuquerque Tribune, N.M.)
  • Views vary in faith's eyes | As the battle over homosexual marriage raged in the Alabama Legislature, one of the most prevalent arguments against extending that right to gays and lesbians was a moral one (Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.)
  • Also: Legislators want gay marriage ban in Alabama special session (Associated Press)
  • Judge tells Benton County to issue marriage licenses | Court order made after Monroe-area couple complains (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
  • Also: Oregon county ordered to issue marriage licenses | An Oregon county was ordered by a judge to start issuing marriage licenses again after officials stopped granting them earlier this year to avoid discriminating between heterosexual and homosexual couples (Reuters)
  • Also: Ore. county gays to get marriage licenses | Senior Judge Wayne R. Harris ordered Benton County on Wednesday to resume issuing the licenses, saying officials had failed to provide a service. Though his order didn't specifically mention same-sex couples, officials expect licenses only will be given to marriages between a man and a woman (Associated Press)
  • Marriage measure turns up intensity | Emotions run high on Measure 36, an initiative with volunteers on both sides out canvassing, calling and collecting money (The Oregonian)
  • Understanding the difference between rights and rites | Whatever our faith claims regarding who should be eligible to marry or who should not, we must not confuse the rites of our church with the rights of all citizens in a free country (Joe W. Walker, The Oregonian)


  • Archdiocese to pay $2M in sex abuse cases | The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis said Thursday it will pay $2 million to settle 18 claims of sexual abuse against five priests and a nun. The archdiocese said it hopes to settle 16 more cases. (Associated Press)
  • Retired priest's abuses revealed | An elderly priest is expected to be barred from performing any priestly duties after the Diocese of La Crosse confirmed a report that he had sexually abused a girl more than 30 years ago (Wausau Daily Herald, Wis.)


  • Bear of a battle | As students return to campuses across the country, professors debate Baylor University's ambitious plans to be "the Protestant Notre Dame," and the ambitious president driving change (World)
  • Also: Interview with Baylor president Robert Sloan | On the troubles at Baylor and his vision for a distinctly Christian university (World)
Article continues below
  • Fuller Seminary professor forced to leave U.S. | The case of an internationally prominent Fuller Theological Seminary professor whose visa was denied is unprecedented, baffling, and could hurt future efforts to attract world- class scholars, school officials said (Pasadena Star News, Ca.)
  • The college code | A Christian group is "derecognized" (Jon Sanders, The Wall Street Journal)
  • A voucher by any other name … | Call it something else and the public will support it. (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)

Church life:

  • Churches not always divine as neighbors | Churches say they need to grow to serve burgeoning congregations. Neighbors say that's fine, except bigger churches don't fit into their communities (The Charlotte Observer)
  • New Southern Baptist Convention president to visit all 50 states | Starting Sunday, the Rev. Bobby Welch, 61, will embark on a 25-day, 20,000-mile tour beginning in Daytona Beach, Fla., and ending in Waikoloa, Hawaii (The Washington Times)
  • Church secessions frustrate leadership | Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold on Wednesday released a statement supporting the actions of Bishop J. Jon Bruno, of Los Angeles, who refused to release the three churches that broke away and aligned themselves with the Diocese of Luwero in the Anglican Province of Uganda, Africa (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)
  • Archbishop attends Christian festival | Rowan Williams goes go Greenbelt (PA, U.K.)

Missions & Ministry:

  • After three years some groups still aiding Sept. 11 victims | The United Services Group, a New York City humanitarian consortium that helped victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, closed up shop on July 31. But that doesn't mean the long-term relief work is anywhere near over (Religion News Service)
  • Promise Keepers expecting 14,000 | The event, titled "Uprising: The Revolution of a Man's Soul," is the 11th stop on an 18-city U.S. "tour" this year, and is designed to ask men to take greater spiritual responsibility and to share their Christian faith with other men (San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)
  • Former Olympic hopeful helps athletes keep the faith | Athletes in Action director focuses on Olympians' spirituality (The Dallas Morning News)


  • Gospel singers aim for glory in Indonesian idol | Two Christian gospel singers are locked in a final showdown in the world's most populous Muslim country to become its first pop idol, chosen by the public through an interactive TV show (Reuters)
  • Tower power | All-Christian radio's music, messages lift up tens of thousands in South Mississippi (The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.)
Article continues below
  • McClurkin's war on gays | Gospel great says homosexuals can be cured (EurWeb)
  • Books:
  • The Retro American freak show | Problems in John Sperling's The Great Divide: Retro vs. Metro America (Douglas LeBlanc, GetReligion)
  • Turning interfaith strangers into a community of friends | Religious book is an innovative effort to overcoming mistrust (David Crumm, Detroit Free Press)


  • Catholic renewal movement conference discusses pilgrimage | Seven hundred priests affiliated with the Neocatechumenal Way arrived in Israel to attend a conference dedicated to attracting new members to this evangelical Catholic movement and to encourage pilgrimage to Israel (The Jerusalem Post)
  • Shrine is a towering symbol of faith | Atop a grassy mound in Michigan, the 50-year-old Cross in the Woods draws faithful from around the world to "a place of peace and pilgrimage" (Chicago Tribune)


  • Demographics may mean end to celibacy issue | There are more Catholics in this country every year and fewer priests. The number of retired and disabled elderly clergy grows rapidly (Steve Gushee, Palm Beach Post)
  • The theological liberals have no right to take the moral high ground | Cardinal George Pell's opponents should at least have the fortitude to argue against his ideas (Ephraem Chifley, The Sydney Morning Herald)

Other stories of interest:

  • Iraq urges Christians to return from exile | Thousands of Christians were chased out of Iraq by radical Muslims but some of them are returning to Kurdish-controlled areas in the north, Iraq's designated ambassador to the Vatican said yesterday (UPI)
  • Cheerleader applauds firing of UGA coach | Marilou Braswell appeals termination (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • Woman stabs boyfriend in fight over religion | They were both drunk (KWTV, Oklahoma City, video)
  • Raising a puppy: It takes a monastery | The monks of New Skete, a monastery near Glens Falls, N.Y., are known for their German shepherds. Their book has become a popular training guide for dog owners (The New York Times)
  • Remember what Sundays used to be like? | Sundays used to be quiet; a day for contemplation. Then shops began opening and the day of rest changed forever (BBC)
  • Jesus fish doubles as a business model | Whenever I hear or see businesses promote themselves as "Christian-based," I have to ask: What the Holy Hill does that mean? (Mike Moore, The Journal Times, Racine, Wis.)

Related Elsewhere:

Suggest links and stories by sending e-mail to

What is Weblog?

Check out Books & Culture's weekly weblog, Content & Context.

See our past Weblog updates:

August 26 | 24 | 23
August 20 | 19 | 18 | 17 | 16
August 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9
August 6 | 5 | 3 | 2
July 30 | 29 | 28 | 27
July 23 | 22 | 21 | 20 | 19
and more, back to November 1999

Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
Previous Weblog Columns: