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Faith & Parish

Traditionalists add spice to the Catholic stew


If ever an object lesson were needed in the complexities of running the universal Catholic Church, a recent interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Swiss head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, offers it in living color. It may be an especially apposite read for liberals, both inside and outside the church, who sometimes struggle to grasp that there’s actually Catholic life to the right of the pope.

Granted, although its bishops are no longer excommunicated, the Society of St. Pius X -- which broke with Rome in 1988, when the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre ordained bishops in defiance of the pope -- has no formal standing in the church. Granted, too, we journalists probably pay more attention to the traditionalists than their real-world following might justify, largely because they often say and do inflammatory things that make great copy.

Even with those stipulations, the climate of opinion represented by the Society of St. Pius X nonetheless remains an important part of the broader Catholic conversation.

US Catholic parishes growing in size and diversity


WASHINGTON – In just 10 years U.S. Catholic parishes have become considerably bigger and more diverse, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reported as part of a major new study on Catholic parish life.

In 2000, just one-quarter of the nation’s parishes had more than 1,200 registered households. By 2010 that had grown to one-third. At the lower end, parishes with fewer than 200 registered households dropped from one-fourth of the nation’s total in 2000 to barely more than one in seven a decade later (24 percent to 15 percent).

Catholic activists to Congress: Don't put deficit on backs of poor


WASHINGTON -- When 300 leaders in Catholic social ministry went to Capitol Hill Feb. 15, their basic message to Congress was simple and direct: It is just plain immoral to put the heaviest burden of U.S. deficit reduction on the backs of the poor.

And they had fact sheets to show that is exactly what legislators are currently proposing.

Vatican's justice and peace head meets with U.S. social action leaders


WASHINGTON – Addressing more than 300 U.S. Catholic social justice leaders, the Vatican’s Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson urged them to keep their focus on building a just society “at a time of great financial difficulty not only for the United States but for the world.”

In working for justice “we are the reflections of the living body of Christ,” he said.

Turkson, former archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, and now president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, is in Washington for the 2011 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, which has drawn more than 300 participants from dioceses and other Catholic organizations across the country.

In his keynote address he focused on the 120th anniversary to the first papal social encyclical, Leo XIII’s 1891 letter Rerum Novarum, on the condition of labor, and the legacy of Catholic social teaching that has grown since then.

Catholic health care plan in Arizona under review


The Catholic hospitals in Arizona provide managed health care to qualified poor people under a state Medicaid program called the Mercy Care Plan -- a plan that is now under severe church scrutiny.

In December, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix challenged Mercy Care, saying that under it Catholic facilities are providing, or at least formally cooperating in providing, abortion and other family-planning services that are prohibited by the U.S. Catholic bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Facilities.”

The directives are normative for Catholic health care in the United States.

Olmsted decreed that St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix can no longer call itself Catholic because in 2009 it performed an operation that he and his advisors consider a direct abortion and because he has judged that its involvement in the Mercy Care Plan over many years violates several of the bishops’ directives.

Higher education leaders commit to strengthening Catholic identity



WASHINGTON -- Affirming and strengthening Catholic identity was the central theme of the 2011 gathering of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, held here Jan. 29-31.

From convention addresses and NCR interviews with participants, it seemed evident that the gathered presidents and administrators, coming from most of the 230-some U.S. Catholic institutions of higher learning represented by the association, were not just committed to maintaining and strengthening their Catholic identity: They were enthusiastic about it and were finding more ways to do it successfully.

The puzzle of 20-somethings


NEW YORK -- As Jennifer Sawyer prepared the remarks she was to deliver on Jan. 29 at a Fordham University conference titled “Lost? Twenty-Somethings and the Church,” she Googled “spiritual but not religious” -- a phrase she said many of her friends use to describe themselves -- and discovered an entire Web site dedicated to the idea of seeking faith on one’s own terms. What this brought into focus for Sawyer, a 23-year-old production assistant who divides her time between three New York City parishes, was that people are looking for a spiritual connection, but not necessarily finding it within the walls of the church.

“People have difficulties trying to have a relationship with something that doesn’t seem to understand them,” Sawyer said at the conference, “especially when everybody seems to be talking about us, and not to us.”

Irish priests want new missal postponed

DUBLIN -- A group representing more than 400 of Ireland's 4,500 priests has made an urgent plea to the country's bishops to postpone the introduction of the new English translation of the missal for at least another five years.

The call from the Association of Catholic Priests came as the National Center for Liturgy in Maynooth launched a new publication aimed at explaining and preparing priests and laypeople for the changes in the missal. The new texts will be introduced Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent and the start of the liturgical year.



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October 24-November 6, 2014


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