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Faith & Parish

Survey: Americans overstate size of religious minorities

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The typical American underestimates how many Protestants there are in the U.S., and vastly overestimates the number of religious minorities such as Mormons, Muslims, and atheist/agnostics, according to a new study.

Grey Matter Research and Consulting asked 747 U.S. adults to guess what proportion of the American population belongs to each of eight major religious groups: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, atheist/agnostic, believe in God or a higher power but have no particular religious preference, and any other religious group.

Chaput in Philly swims against 'nostalgia and red ink'

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Charles Chaput, whose blunt speech and strong leadership style made him both a celebrated and a controversial figure for almost fifteen years in Denver, was installed as the ninth Archbishop of Philadelphia on September 8, 2011. To say the very least, he’s had a tumultuous first year on the job.

The very day Chaput arrived, he was informed that the archdiocese’s chief financial officer, Anita Guzzardi, had been suspended. She would later plead guilty to embezzling almost $1 million over a decade, to support a gambling addiction. The experience hinted at two constants Chaput has faced -- scandal and red ink.

Questions hang over Cleveland parish's status

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The Cleveland diocese's website lists St. Margaret Mary Parish of South Euclid, Ohio, as having merged with St. Gregory the Great Parish to become Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish. As such, it is one of the many mergers that have been part of the downsizing of the diocese during the past five years.

But another page of the site lists St. Margaret Mary as one of the parish closings that is "under appeal to the Vatican." The description, on a page headed "Summary of Closed Parish Cash Receipts and Disbursements," continues: "No disposition or other activities will occur until the appeal has been completely addressed by the Vatican."

The discrepancy probably would have gone unnoticed, or chalked up to clerical error, except for the persistent questions that began to gnaw at Michael Gronick and his mother, Patricia, a lifelong member of the parish, questions that only became compounded with more questions as they approached local and Vatican church officials for answers.

Detroit church sponsors gun buyback to stem city's violence

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With the aim of stemming continued gun violence in Detroit, St. Cecilia Catholic Church sponsored a Detroit Police Department gun buyback Aug. 30.

Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hanchon and Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee volunteered at the event that saw 365 guns, including six assault weapons and a handful of sawed-off shotguns, turned in and $16,820 handed out.

Philadelphia breaks new ground on managing Catholic schools

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In a major break from traditional Catholic school models, the Philadelphia archdiocese has turned over management of its high schools and special-needs elementary schools to a lay-run private foundation for at least the next five years.

The move, which does not change the Catholic character of the schools, affects some 16,000 students in the archdiocese.

Washington churches told not to collect funds for gay marriage fight

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SPOKANE, Wash. -- Churches in Washington state are being reminded that collecting money for a political cause is not OK -- including a high-stakes ballot battle over gay marriage.

The state's Public Disclosure Commission recently learned that Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Tyson of Yakima sent a letter to pastors in 41 parishes asking them to take up a special collection for Preserve Marriage Washington, the group that is trying to overturn the state's same-sex marriage law.

A formal complaint, however, was not filed. Lori Anderson, communication and training officer for the state commission, said the reminder was merely precautionary.

"There's been no formal action. There's no story here. Preserve Marriage Washington and our partners have done everything within full compliance of the law," said PMW Deputy Campaign Director Chris Plante.

Anderson explained that any organization -- religious or not -- cannot serve as an intermediary for a contribution, though it can freely promote a campaign.

Experts focus on lay boards' emerging role in Catholic education

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SAN FRANCISCO -- As religious communities in the U.S. and Canada hand over to lay boards the leadership of their Catholic schools, these boards are being called to exercise far more than traditional fiduciary responsibilities. They are now key planners for an educational future that remains faithful to a school's primary mission while adapting to the needs of 21st-century students.

Ex-CFO in Philadelphia archdiocese gets two to seven years for stealing $900,000

PHILADELPHIA -- The former chief financial officer of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will spend the next two to seven years in state prison for embezzling more than $900,000 from the church over seven years.

Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler sentenced Anita Guzzardi, 44, to prison at a hearing Aug. 24 in Philadelphia on her third-degree felony conviction of theft by deception. Guzzardi will also serve seven years' probation on two other convictions, forgery and unlawful use of a computer. She had pleaded guilty to the three charges July 29.

Guzzardi sat downcast in a black business suit as Assistant District Attorney Lisa Caulfield described what she called the "lavish lifestyle" Guzzardi fueled through funds she embezzled in her work as a trusted senior financial officer of the archdiocese.

Beginning in late 2004, Caulfield said, Guzzardi began to write archdiocesan checks to cover her expenses on her American Express credit card. The deception grew to a second Amex card and a Chase card, expenses for which she covered by cutting more than 300 checks over time totaling $906,000.

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October 10-23, 2014

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