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Will Elizabeth Johnson's accusers please step forward?

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COMMENTARY

J’accuse!

Fordham University’s Distinguished Professor of Theology, St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, stands in the dock, so to speak. Accused by an undisclosed number of individual U.S. bishops of failing to reflect clearly the church’s teaching on God in her 2007 book, Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine seconded the original accusation. There were, indeed, the doctrine committee found, serious problems with Johnson’s book on God (NCR, March 31).

I read Quest for the Living God soon after it was published. As with many of her previous works, I remembered the author’s gift for taking rather sleepy church doctrines and bringing them to life. Deeply rooted in our faith’s tradition, Johnson engaged these truths, plumbed their depths, wrestled with their mystery, and presented them afresh to her readers. Hers was not only a world-class intelligence, but a world-class imagination steeped in the church’s history, theology and spirituality. I so wanted to hear this theologian preach.

Pro-life official: Catholic contraceptive report misleading

WASHINGTON The U.S. bishops' pro-life spokeswoman is disputing a new report from the Guttmacher Institute that says Catholic women -- including frequent churchgoers -- are just as likely as other women to use artificial contraception.

"The way the data is presented ... is misleading in a pretty fundamental way," Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, told Catholic News Service April 21.

Wuerl defends stinging rebuke of theologian's book

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Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, April 18 sent a letter to the U.S. bishops outlining a fresh relationship between them and theologians aimed at preserving authentic Catholic doctrine.

Wuerl said he acted in light of interest generated following a March 24 doctrine committee rebuke of a book by one of the nation’s most prominent theologians.

Catholic schools help swell ranks of Easter converts

WASHINGTON -- With less than two weeks to go, fifth-grader Simone Marshall ticked off what she was looking forward to most as she awaited the Easter Vigil where she would officially become a Roman Catholic.

“I cannot wait to get baptized so I can be born again and I can be closer to Jesus,” she said, dressed in her plaid school uniform from St. Augustine Catholic School. “I cannot wait to receive the blood and body of Jesus.”

Think you'll need last rites? Plan ahead

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CLEVELAND -- In days long gone, Catholic priests regularly made deathbed house calls, even in the middle of the night with little notice, to pray over the dying and anoint them with holy oils.

The candlelight ritual, popularly known as last rites, continues in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice houses and private homes. But it happens less frequently because priests -- the only ones who can perform the service -- are in short supply.

Although fewer Catholics are seeking what’s officially known as the sacrament of anointing of the sick, those who do want it could be at risk of reaching their final hours without the prayer-whispering presence of a Roman-collared priest unless they plan ahead.

“We recommend that whenever you’re ill, ask for that sacrament,” said retired Cleveland auxiliary bishop Anthony Pilla. “So many times people don’t want to be anointed because they think that might mean they’re going to die.

“But it’s not just a sacrament for the dying,” he said. “It’s for the sick and the recovering.”

Supporters march for paddling at Catholic school

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NEW ORLEANS -- More than 500 students, parents and other supporters of St. Augustine High School marched Saturday on the offices of Archbishop Gregory Aymond to oppose his call for an end to the school’s policy of using corporal punishment.

The archbishop “is trying to fix something that’s not broken, and he’s going about it in the wrong way,” said Jacob Washington, the student body president at the historically black school.

The protesters called on the archbishop to issue a “public, unequivocal retraction ... of all statements linking St. Augustine disciplinary policies with violence, particularly in the New Orleans community.”

Protesters also demanded proof of Aymond’s claims that parents have complained about the paddling policy, along with evidence for a study he has cited to bolster his position.

The archbishop has said corporal punishment institutionalizes violence, runs counter to Catholic teaching and good educational practice, and violates local archdiocesan school policy.

The Center for Effective Discipline has identified St. Augustine as the lone Catholic school in the country still using corporal punishment.

Religious Education Congress 2011: A vibrant human mosaic

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ANAHEIM, CALIF. -- Ask anyone who participated in the Religious Education Congress March 17-20 how they would describe the event in terms of art, and they will tell you: It’s the people. Ask author/speaker Jesuit Fr. James Martin and he will tell you that the congress -- not Disneyland across the street -- is the happiest place on earth.

U.S. Catholics lead other Christians on gay rights

While the Vatican and U.S. bishops maintain a hard-line stand against most gay rights causes, American Catholics are more supportive of gay rights than other U.S. Christians, according to new research released March 22.

A report by Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute found that 74 percent of Catholics favor legal recognition for same-sex relationships, either through civil unions (31 percent) or civil marriage (43 percent).

That figure is higher than the 64 percent of all Americans, 67 percent of mainline Protestants, 48 percent of black Protestants and 40 percent of evangelicals.

Less than one-quarter (22 percent) of Catholics want no legal recognition of same-sex partnerships, while a majority (56 percent) believes that same-sex adult relationships are not sinful.

The analysis was based on polling conducted by PRRI and the Pew Research Center last fall. In almost every category, Catholics scored 5 to 6 percentage points higher on supporting gay rights than other U.S. churches.

Neither Jews (who are generally among the most supportive of gay rights issues) nor Muslims were included in the data because of their small sample size.

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April 11-24, 2014

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