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Faith & Parish

Buying the Crystal Cathedral: Great deal or big gamble?

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Even by the depressed metrics of Southern California's real estate market, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange negotiated a pretty sweet deal when it purchased the iconic Crystal Cathedral, the longtime pulpit of the Rev. Robert H. Schuller and backdrop to his popular "Hour of Power" television broadcasts.

Advent a make-or-break chance for churches, visitors

Advent has arrived in American churches, which means the lapsed and the curious who seldom darken the door just might drop by for a taste of the season's spirit.

But if visitors briskly come and go without considering a commitment to join or get involved, then churches will have missed a golden opportunity with huge implications for the future.

With some giggles and retakes, missal debuts

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The jarring term “liturgy wars” once characterized the theological and linguistic struggles that produced the new language that landed, in the form of laminated cards, on most Catholic church pews in the United States on the first Sunday of Advent.

But the harshest realities of that long struggle remained largely hidden from view, scrubbed for public viewing like an evening news report, as congregations made their ways through the new responses, pronouncing “And with your spirit,” in place of the previous, “And also with you,” and “I am not worthy that you enter under my roof” in place of the simpler, “I am not worthy to receive you.”

Irish priests struggle with sins of the minority

DUBLIN -- Father Damien McGroarty, 29, is one of the youngest diocesan priests in Ireland. Ordained just over a year ago, he should still be at the honeymoon stage of his vocation.

Instead, an independent audit of clerical sexual abuse in his Raphoe Diocese left him soul-searching about the public's perception of priesthood.

Panelists: Tuition tax credits are basic social justice

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WASHINGTON -- Tuition tax credits for U.S. children in nonpublic schools are a matter of social justice for taxpaying parents, panelists said Nov. 30 at a daylong conference at The Catholic University of America.

Such credits also save on public taxes and are a concrete, proven way to help children of poor families lift themselves out of poverty, they said.

Making do with a faulty translation

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In the big tent we like to believe the church is, we recognize that tensions exist, that viewpoints differ and that different groups approach the Gospel imperative from different sets of priorities. Tensions exist within any big family, and disagreements too are part of family life. In the best of circumstances disagreements can be learning experiences, chances to grow as a family.

Angry churches pull money from big banks

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A small but growing number of religious communities across the country are removing their money from Wall Street banks to protest what they see as unfair mortgage foreclosures and unwillingness to lend to small businesses.

The New Bottom Line (NBL) coalition of congregations, community organizations, labor unions and individuals is promoting a "Move Our Money" campaign with the goal of shifting $1 billion from big banks to community banks and credit unions.

"In a way, the banks have divested from our communities, especially communities of color," said the Rev. Ryan Bell, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Los Angeles. "So we're basically telling Bank of America that we want them to invest in our communities, and until they do that we're not going to give our money to them."

Bell's church was one of six Los Angeles Christian congregations that announced they would divest a collective $2 million from Bank of America and Wells Fargo as part of the Move Our Money campaign.

Mapping a liturgical sentence

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FICTION

"Thank god at last we have a real pope," shouted Bill Barker, grand knight of the local chapter of the Knights of St. Sepulcher. "Oh don't get me wrong, Father. Pope John Paul was a good man, God rest his soul. But this new Holy Father really knows his business." He paused to take a breath. The force of his conviction caused the plume on his hat to shimmer and his sword to clang against the folding chair.

"Take this New Missal, for instance. We'll finally get to pray the way that Moses and the early Christians prayed. Why, these new prayers were translated straight from Latin, the language Jesus spoke when he talked down to the crowds and his disciples."

Fr. Dan Wiggins stared in silence at the paper tablecloth and idly rolled the peas around his Styrofoam plate. He silently thanked God that he could barely hear Barker over the roar of diners who had gathered in the parish gymnasium for the Knights' annual fundraising dinner to stop the trafficking in frozen embryos from China.

Barker nudged the priest to gain his attention and asked, "What do you think, Father Dan? Don't you like these new prayers the Holy Father has given us?"

Austrian bishops say no to lay-led Mass

Catholic bishops in Austria have rejected a call by dissident church members for lay people to preside at Mass when parishes have no priests, but the bishops also pledged to maintain a dialogue over possible changes in churchlife.

Austria's reformist We Are Church movement had asked for lay presiders on Nov. 5, following a "Call to Disobedience" signed last July by 250 of Austria's 4,200 Catholic priests that urged the ordination of women priests and making Communion available to non-Catholics and remarried divorcees.

The bishops said Austria's dioceses were "taking opportunities to innovate" in response to "real and serious problems," and were confident they would "find answers to the questions asked today."

However, the bishops added that the summons to disobedience had "triggered alarm and sadness," and "left many Catholics shaking their heads."

"Some demands allied with this call for disobedience are simply unsustainable -- the call for a Eucharist without the Blessed Sacrament openly breaches the central truth of our Catholic faith," the bishops' conference said in their Nov. 10 reply.

Mass changes have liturgists scurrying to craft new music

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For the average American Catholic in the pews, the upcoming changes to the text of the Mass might mean little more than memorizing a few new prayer responses.

But when the revised translation of the Mass sweeps into churches across America on the first Sunday of Advent (Nov. 27), it will bring with it a slew of new missals and hymnals -- and perhaps a whole new (or old) style of worship.

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July 18-31, 2014

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