National Catholic Reporter

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Faith & Parish

Recession brings drop in parish incomes, growth in needs

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WASHINGTON -- More than half of U.S. Catholic parishes surveyed in late 2010 said the nationwide financial crisis has sparked a growth in requests for financial assistance and pastoral counseling while parishes struggle with falling incomes caused by the recession.

Key findings from a survey of 390 Catholic parishes, reported this month by economist Charles Zech of Villanova University in Philadelphia, included:


  • More than nine out of 10 parishes said they have been called to do more for parishioners because of increased unemployment in the parish.

  • Eighty-five percent said they have faced increased requests for financial assistance.

  • Five out of eight -- 62 percent -- said they have received more requests for emergency housing as a result of the recession.

  • Nearly two-thirds -- 64.6 percent -- reported that the recession has caused an increase in requests for pastoral counseling.

Church secretary says interracial marriage got her fired

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FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. -- A white church secretary is suing her former employer, saying she was fired for marrying a black man.

Debra Dodd, the former secretary at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, Tenn., and the Rev. Tim Smith, pastor of the church, agree on one thing: Most of the members of that congregation are great people.

But from there, their stories diverge.

Dodd has filed a lawsuit for back wages and $500,000 in punitive damages against the church after she was fired for what she says is racial discrimination.

Dodd said the all-white church first embraced her during her two years as secretary -- and then suddenly shunned and subsequently fired her May 26 after they learned she had married a black man in April.

Smith said Dodd's marriage is unrelated to her firing, but also said his lawyer has directed him not to discuss particulars.

"In this congregation, I work with some of the most loving people in the city," Smith said. "I can't comment on the lawsuit, but there is more to this story."

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.

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