THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is a fascinating policy announcement from Pope Benedict XVI, who stated unequivocally that all nations have a moral responsibility to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens, “regardless of social and economic status or their ability to pay.”

Access to adequate medical attention, the pope said in a written message Nov. 18, was one of the “inalienable rights” of man. […]

The pope lamented the great inequalities in health care around the globe…. Because an individual’s health is a “precious asset” to society as well as to himself, governments and other agencies should seek to protect it by “dedicating the equipment, resources and energy so that the greatest number of people can have access.”

Not surprisingly, some of this message was less progressive in nature. The pope, for example, isn’t on board with euthanasia or embryonic research. But he nevertheless concluded that “justice in health care should be a priority of governments and international institutions.”

With this in mind, I can only hope to see Pope Benedict XVI work his way onto Glenn Beck’s chalkboard, denounced by the right as a radical communist bent on Hitler-like tyranny over American taxpayers. Indeed, Media Matters flagged this Beck quote uttered during the debate over the Affordable Care Act.

“We have a right to health care, really? God doesn’t give health care. Man provides health care. So how can it be a right. If you are endowed by your Creator with certain unalienable rights, how can a God-given right be health care, unless Jesus comes down and starts to open up a clinic and heal us himself? There cannot be a right to health care, because the rights come to God.”

It looks like politically conservative Roman Catholics will have to decide which of these two interpretations caries more moral weight.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* President Obama signed an executive order this week reforming the rules governing the White House’s faith-based office. The order takes some worthwhile steps clarifying Bush-era ambiguities, and received generally, but not universal, high-marks. The nine-page order, however, sidestepped arguably the most contentious issue in the debate: whether faith-based groups can accept public grants and still discriminate in hiring. (thanks to D.J. for the tip)

* In Phoenix, Arizona, the Light of the World church is in the process of building a Christian house of worship with modern architecture. But because the church features a dome, the congregation’s leaders are drawing fire from locals who fear it’s a mosque.

* On a related note, a judge in Tennessee ruled this week that the construction of a mosque in middle Tennessee can continue, despite demands from local bigots to block the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

* Religious right leaders recently met to strategize on how best to defeat President Obama in 2012. A similar confab was held in 1979, and that one worked out pretty well for them.

* The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops elected Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York to be its president this week. The announcement was something of a surprise, which “reaffirmed the conservative direction of the Roman Catholic Church in America.”

* And this holiday season, anyone inclined to think Christians are persecuted because some clerk at the mall wished them a “Happy Holidays” should consider what Christians are facing in Iraq right now.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.