How should bishops conduct themselves in the public square? The question is especially urgent today when so many divisive issues, including contraception mandates and same-sex marriage, complicate the nation's politics. Economic concerns still dominate the public's interest, but it is these hot-button issues that get people's blood pressure rising.
Faith & Parish
MILWAUKEE -- The killing of six Sikhs at their temple Sunday in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek brought an outpouring of spiritual support from leaders in the Catholic community, as well as a call for the entire community to examine violence in U.S. culture.
WASHINGTON -- Catholic Relief Services said that $5.3 million in emergency funding it provided to the humanitarian organization CARE in 2010 under a U.S. government grant did not violate Catholic teaching.
In postings on its website July 20 and July 24, the U.S. bishops' international development and relief agency explained that the money it provided to CARE was specifically used for water and sanitation and food and nutrition programs for poor families in Central America and Africa and could not be transferred to other services which CARE provided.
The postings came in response to an online report that CARE provides contraceptives to women and other family planning services.
CRS said the report, which made its way to several websites, contained "inaccurate and scurrilous accusations."
"CRS is not in agreement with CARE's policy on contraception because we do not support any positions that would be in violation of Catholic teaching on human dignity and the sanctity of human life," the church relief agency said in an updated posting July 24.
VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican has withdrawn the titles "Catholic" and "Pontifical" from a university in Peru after decades of discussions over the school's Catholic identity and after tensions between university officials and the local cardinal over control of the school's assets.
Unbelief is on the uptick. People who check "None" for their religious affiliation are now nearly one in five Americans (19 percent), the highest ever documented, according to the Pew Center for the People and the Press.
The rapid rise of Nones -- including atheists, agnostics and those who say they believe "nothing in particular" -- defies the usually glacial rate of change in spiritual identity.
Barry Kosmin, co-author of three American Religious Identification Surveys, theorizes why None has become the "default category." He says, "Young people are resistant to the authority of institutional religion, older people are turned off by the politicization of religion, and people are simply less into theology than ever before."
Kosmin's surveys were the first to brand the Nones in 1990 when they were 6 percent of U.S. adults. By the 2008 survey, Nones were up to 15 percent. By 2010, another survey, the biannual General Social Survey, bumped the number to 18 percent.
SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco Auxiliary Bishop Robert McElroy, opening a four-day conference here, July 19-22, on the role of trustees in U.S. Catholic high schools and colleges, said the strong sense of mission, developed and maintained so ably by religious women and men over the past two centuries, is now the prime responsibility of lay boards in most schools, and he urged trustees to fully embrace their role in sustaining it.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- In a move that will go into effect Sept. 16, Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde has directed that a "profession of faith" declaring assent to all church teachings be made by all teachers of the faith, including catechists, youth ministers and religion teachers in the diocese.
The policy, announced in a letter to pastors and parochial administrators from Bishop Loverde dated May 10, stressed "the pressing need to hand on our Faith in an integral, comprehensive and clear way" and "the need to assure sound teaching in our catechetical programs" so that Catholic youths "truly be formed as authentic disciples of the Lord Jesus."
The profession contains the Nicene Creed; a declaration of belief in "everything contained in the word of God," whether written or handed down in church tradition; an affirmation to "accept and hold" what the church definitively teaches on faith and morals; and an affirmation to "adhere with religious submission of will and intellect" to the authoritative teachings of the pope and the bishops.
SEYMOUR, Ill. -- The desperation of drought-stricken farmers in the Midwest was evidenced by what topped Mary Margaret O'Connor's "day's best memory" list as the July 8 celebration of her parish church's centennial came to a close.
"It looks like we're going to get rain," said O'Connor, eyeing dark clouds approaching the grounds of St. Boniface Church, where a tent had been erected for a parish luncheon.
DAVENPORT, Iowa -- The Davenport Diocese's bankruptcy case is closed nearly six years after its attorneys filed a Chapter 11 petition and four years after the diocese reached a $37 million settlement with creditors.
Bankruptcy Judge Lee Jackwig entered the final decree June 15 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Iowa, following a teleconference call between attorneys for the diocese and victims of clergy sexual abuse, who were the major creditors in the bankruptcy case. Jackwig noted that the diocese has met the requirements of the bankruptcy plan, but must continue to comply with ongoing nonmonetary terms as set forth in the plan.
Among the ongoing nonmonetary terms are posting on the diocesan website the names of all credibly accused perpetrators, providing outreach to survivors of clergy sexual abuse and publishing announcements about training for prevention of abuse.
ATLANTA -- Looking across the hotel conference room, one is struck by the seeming homogeneity of the U.S. bishops, gathered here for their annual spring meeting. But the uniform black suits, Roman collars and pectoral crosses disguise the diversity of the group, a diversity of temperament, politics and perhaps theology.
More than half of the June 13-15 meeting was held behind closed doors, but in the sessions that were public, that diversity shone through.