Rector Says Sermon on Election

Triggered IRS Probe of Church

An Episcopal church says it will fight to keep its tax-exempt status in light of an Internal Revenue Service investigation into a politically charged sermon.

The Rev. Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif., said that the church learned of the investigation in June and that he made it public in services Sunday because the IRS appears to be close to a decision on the matter.

IRS officials would not confirm the investigation because of what they said were confidentiality concerns related to an ongoing probe. The agency's regulations prohibit churches from participating in political campaigns on behalf of one candidate. Political endorsements, donations or statements made on behalf of a church are also not allowed.

The investigation was triggered by a sermon delivered Oct. 31, 2004, by Rector Emeritus George Regas that speculated about what Jesus would say to President Bush and the Democratic candidate, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) on subjects including poverty, violence and war.

In his introduction, Regas said he did not intend to tell people how to vote, but at one point, Regas imagined words Jesus would have for Bush: "Mr. President, your doctrine of a preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster."

Bacon said the IRS asked for supporting documents in its letter, which the church provided. Then the agency offered a deal, he said: If the church would say it violated regulations and promise to comply in the future, the IRS would drop the investigation. The church replied that it had not broken any regulations.

-- Religion News Service

Methodist Bishops Affirm

Their Churches Are Open to Gays

A meeting of the United Methodist Church's bishops has unanimously reaffirmed that "homosexuality is not a barrier" to membership.

The bishops were responding to the denomination's highest court, which reinstated the Rev. Edward Johnson of South Hill, Va., and ruled that he had the right to bar a practicing homosexual from membership.

The bishops, meeting in Lake Junaluska, N.C., said the church endorses "inclusiveness and justice for all as it relates to church membership." They did not address the church's policy against gay relationships, which Johnson said he was upholding.

Johnson was suspended without pay by Virginia's clergy conference after rejecting orders from his bishop and district superintendent to accept the gay member.

Apparently disputing the court, called the Judicial Council, the bishops stated that "pastors are accountable to the bishop, superintendent, and the clergy on matters of ministry and membership."

-- Associated Press

Italian Woman Who Raised

11 Children Is Beatified

As the Vatican pushes for greater public appreciation of large families, it is promoting the possible sainthood of an Italian woman who raised 11 children.

Eurosia Fabris, known as "Mamma Rosa," was beatified Sunday in Vicenza, near her native village in rural northern Italy, completing the last formal step before sainthood. If she is canonized, many expect Fabris to become a patron saint for large families -- a dwindling demographic to which Pope Benedict XVI has recently called attention.

Fabris, who lived between 1866 and 1932, is noted for taking care of two children following the death of their mother and subsequently marrying their father -- a step defined as an "act of charity" by local churchmen.

The couple subsequently reared nine children, three of whom became Roman Catholic priests and one of whom became a nun.

Fabris joined a religious order in 1930 after the death of her husband, but she is primarily remembered as a layperson.

Benedict called last week for countries to provide incentives to large families, following the release of European Union statistics that reported a fertility rate of 1.5 children per woman throughout the 25-nation bloc.

-- Religion News Service

Eurosia Fabris Barban, an Italian who raised 11 children, was beatified Sunday at Vicenza Cathedral in Italy. She died in 1932.