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Faith & Parish

Survey finds record 19 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans


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.

Schools entrust religious mission to lay boards, trustees


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.

New profession of faith seen as 'public way of witnessing' to beliefs

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.

Drought, heat making Midwest corn farmers pray for rain


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.

Judge closes bankruptcy case against Iowa diocese

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.

Diversity shows at bishops' meeting


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.

Appealing Cleveland parishes receive new pastors


Full restoration continues to inch closer for 11 shuttered parishes in Cleveland.

Bishop Richard G. Lennon announced Wednesday afternoon the names of pastors and opening dates for five of the 11 parishes that successfully appealed their closure to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy in early March. A 12th parish required restoration in name only.

The new pastors and assignments are:

  • Rev. Gary Chmura, St. Adalbert parish in Cleveland, effective July 2;

  • Rev. A. Jonathon Zingales, St. John the Baptist parish in Akron, effective July 2;

  • Rev. Eric Orzech, St. Casimir parish in Cleveland, effective July 9;

  • Rev. Joseph Hilinski, St. Barbara parish in Cleveland, effective July 16;

  • Rev. Joseph Workman, St. James parish in Lakewood, effective July 23.

Victims group urges Philadelphia archbishop to defrock convicted priest


The leading advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse by clergy is urging Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput to defrock the priest convicted last week of shielding other clerics who preyed on children. But laicizing Monsignor William Lynn is not as simple as it sounds.

Lynn oversaw clergy assignments in the Philadelphia archdiocese for a decade and is the first high-ranking church official ever found guilty of covering up for abuse, not committing it.

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.


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In This Issue

March 27-April 9, 2015


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