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Faith & Parish

Shuttering of Philadelphia newspaper inspires nostalgia for how things were



I was working on an essay on the state of things ecclesiastical as we approach the Fortnight for Freedom when a long-ago colleague emailed a link to a story by Philadelphia Inquirer writer David O'Reilly reporting that a projected deficit of $17 million in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has forced Archbishop Charles J. Chaput to announce "a massive restructuring that will include the immediate closure of the archdiocesan youth office and the monthly newspaper," The Catholic Standard & Times.

My reporting of recent years has led me to conclude (repeatedly and also -- some unabashed self-promotion here -- in my book, The Emerging Catholic Church) that the church has changed significantly in the last 50 years and that it will keep changing by dint of new theological and scientific insights and by force of sheer demographic changes. Although some people are loudly insisting that it hasn't really changed and shouldn't change any more.

Conservatives rally across U.S. for 'religious freedom'


WASHINGTON -- Hundreds gathered on Capitol Hill and at rallies across the nation Friday in a double-barreled attack on President Barack Obama's health care law and a mandate to require employers to provide insurance coverage of birth control.

Speakers such as Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and anti-abortion activist Lila Rose rallied conservatives in one of 160 coordinated noontime rallies across the country.

Bachmann, a former GOP presidential candidate, emphasized that the fight over the insurance mandate is not about birth control or women's rights, but the freedom to practice religion without government involvement.

"This is about, at its heart and soul, religious liberty first and religious liberty always," she said. "We will fight this and we will win."

The rally comes on the heels of 12 lawsuits filed by 43 Catholic groups against the Department of Health and Human Services in May over the insurance mandate. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on Obama's landmark 2010 health care law.

Crystal Cathedral to move to smaller Catholic church

In a building swap, the Crystal Cathedral has announced it will move its congregation to a smaller Roman Catholic church after the iconic Protestant megachurch was sold to the Catholic Diocese of Orange, Calif.

The cathedral, plagued by huge debt and squabbles among family members of founder Robert H. Schuller, will move to a space with less than half of its current seating capacity. Sheila Schuller Coleman, Schuller's daughter and the recent pastor at the cathedral, started a new church nearby in March.

Last fall, a bankruptcy judge approved the diocese's $57.5 million purchase of the glass-walled building in Garden Grove. The cathedral's congregation is exercising an option in the sales agreement that permits it to move to St. Callistus Catholic Church in June 2013.

The Catholic congregation at St. Callistus, and later, the administrative offices of the diocese, will move to the Crystal Cathedral site.

The Cathedral congregation will pay $25,000 in monthly rent for two years starting January 2014, with the cost escalating in a predetermined formula after that. The cathedral said the length of the lease agreement has not been determined.

Theological society backs Vatican-criticized nun


ST. LOUIS -- The board of the largest membership organization of U.S. theologians issued a statement of support Thursday afternoon (June 7) for Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley, a member in their ranks who was the subject of harsh criticism from the Vatican just days ago.

Writing that it considers Farley’s work “reflective, measured, and wise,” the leadership of the some 1,500 member Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) says in the statement it is “especially concerned” that the Vatican’s criticism presents a limiting understanding of the role of Catholic theology.

Building community at heart of lay ministry, conference speakers say


ARLINGTON, Va. -- The head of Catholic Relief Services urged an audience of lay ministers to work with one another and develop a sense of community.

And one key to building that community is charisma, said Carolyn Woo, CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

"Charisma is the ability to take people as you find them, like them for what they are, and do not dislike them for what they are not," she told attendees at the annual conference of the National Association for Lay Ministry.

The meeting, which featured prayer, speakers and informational booths, was held in the Crystal City area of Arlington May 31-June 2.

Woo urged empathy and a capacity for others. "This capacity for others is grace," she said, emphasizing that the word "grace" should be spelled with a capital "G" -- "because grace is what God gave us."

Grace, she continued, is the key to having the empathy that keeps lay ministers from competing with one another and instead builds a community of lay ministers.

Open letter to American priests


I am watching my 2-week-old grandson sleep. It is my time to be on watch so that his mother can sleep. When he wakes and cries, I will bring him in to her to nurse.

You may find this an odd opening sentence for a letter to American priests, arguably as far as any imaginable cohort from the day-to-day realities of newborn babies, nursing mothers. But it is the presence of this little boy, so new to the world, that has broken through my paralysis, my despair, because nothing breaks through paralysis and despair like a new birth.

Legionaries of Christ withdraw from California parish


SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Citing its need to restructure in the United States after a series of sex abuse scandals involving its founder and several prominent members, the Legionaries of Christ are withdrawing from the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe here, effective July 1. The order has administered the large Hispanic parish in the state capital for the last 12 years.

Their departure follows the closure last year of their two local schools, the University of Sacramento and the Immaculate Conception Apostolic School, because of diminishing enrollment.

"Our religious congregation has suffered a crisis in the past few years and we must restructure ourselves in the United States," said Fr. Lino Otero, pastor, in a message to parishioners. "In these difficult moments, we have enjoyed the support and trust of Pope Benedict XVI, who accompanies us in these times. We view our future with hope and enthusiasm, forming a more solid congregation of religious and priests."

Cleveland priests doubt Lennon's leadership, call for removal


The recent decision of Cleveland bishop Richard G. Lennon to eliminate his diocese’s pastoral planning office appears to have been the final straw, atop a growing list of grievances, for some of his priests.

Since the office’s closing and concurrent firing of two long-time and respected employees, several priests have written letters to Lennon’s superiors in the United States and in Rome, voicing a lack confidence in his leadership and requesting his removal.

The letters surfaced even as Lennon is engaged in the early stages of restoring 11 parishes, carrying out an order from Rome that reversed his earlier decision to shutter the churches. The bishop said in a May 23 meeting with the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s editorial board he hopes to begin reopening parishes by mid-June and complete the process by Aug. 1, the newspaper reported.

Cleveland Catholics demand Lennon reopen parish immediately


Canon lawyers representing St. Patrick Parish of Cleveland filed a motion Wednesday in Rome demanding Bishop Richard G. Lennon immediately reopen the church and restore the parish, and if he won’t, have someone else do it.

The motion is the second filed by the parish since decrees came from the Congregation for the Clergy in early March ruling in favor of St. Patrick and 11 other parishes Lennon had attempted to suppress in a string of closings in 2009.

Conspiracy counts dismissed in case against Philadelphia priests

PHILADELPHIA -- For weeks the words of Msgr. William J. Lynn in testimony before a 2004 Philadelphia grand jury investigating clergy sexual abuse were used against him by state prosecutors.

They intensified their use of the testimony and a trove of hundreds of archdiocesan memos and letters, narrated by Philadelphia police detectives and assistant district attorneys along with some four dozen witnesses, to show jurors in a landmark criminal case that Lynn, 61, former secretary for clergy of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was part of a conspiracy to protect priests and endanger children.

In a significant decision the day the prosecution rested its case, presiding Judge Teresa Sarmina on May 17 dismissed two counts of conspiracy against Lynn and another defendant, Fr. James J. Brennan, 48.

Only two counts of endangering a child remain against Lynn: one related to former priest Edward V. Avery, who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a boy in 1999; and another charge related to Brennan.


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February 27- March 12, 2015


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