National Catholic Reporter

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Faith & Parish

Religious Education Congress 2011: A vibrant human mosaic

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ANAHEIM, CALIF. -- Ask anyone who participated in the Religious Education Congress March 17-20 how they would describe the event in terms of art, and they will tell you: It’s the people. Ask author/speaker Jesuit Fr. James Martin and he will tell you that the congress -- not Disneyland across the street -- is the happiest place on earth.

U.S. Catholics lead other Christians on gay rights

While the Vatican and U.S. bishops maintain a hard-line stand against most gay rights causes, American Catholics are more supportive of gay rights than other U.S. Christians, according to new research released March 22.

A report by Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute found that 74 percent of Catholics favor legal recognition for same-sex relationships, either through civil unions (31 percent) or civil marriage (43 percent).

That figure is higher than the 64 percent of all Americans, 67 percent of mainline Protestants, 48 percent of black Protestants and 40 percent of evangelicals.

Less than one-quarter (22 percent) of Catholics want no legal recognition of same-sex partnerships, while a majority (56 percent) believes that same-sex adult relationships are not sinful.

The analysis was based on polling conducted by PRRI and the Pew Research Center last fall. In almost every category, Catholics scored 5 to 6 percentage points higher on supporting gay rights than other U.S. churches.

Neither Jews (who are generally among the most supportive of gay rights issues) nor Muslims were included in the data because of their small sample size.

Popular Chicago pastor pressured to leave parish

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CHICAGO -- Fr. Michael Pfleger, the white pastor of St. Sabina, one of the largest and most active black Catholic parishes in the country is once again under strong pressure to leave the post he has held for nearly 30 years.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago called him in March 11, wanting Pfleger to take over as president of Leo Catholic High School, a few blocks from St. Sabina. The school has been struggling for years with financial problems, small enrollment and mediocre student performance.

Dominican program explores, expands lay spirituality

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- As a student at Aquinas College in the 1980s, David Lincoln was on track to become a priest. While those pastoral aspirations were later rerouted, Lincoln still wanted to serve God in the world.

“I started to see the role of the laity was becoming incredibly important, and that’s when I felt a different calling and felt at home with that calling,” said Lincoln, now 43.

He started going to various churches around the Grand Rapids area, but “for some reason I did not feel I was being adequately fed.”

As bishop leaves diocese: 'I suspect Jesus was not all that popular'

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Prior to becoming Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sympathized with the notion of a smaller, more orthodox Roman Catholic church. In his decade as bishop of the Baker diocese in Oregon, Robert F. Vasa in effect implemented Benedict’s idea, generating deep reactions of support as well as dissent.

Vasa left Baker earlier this month to become coadjutor bishop of Santa Rosa, Calif.

Center tries to lure lapsed Catholics back into fold

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MADISON, N.J. -- A small bucket filled with bottles of cold beer sat on the floor, down the hall from the chapel, as about a dozen young adults lounged around on comfortable couches.

They weren’t there to pray or preach -- just to enjoy one another’s company at St. Paul Inside the Walls: the Catholic Center for Evangelization at a former high school.

Parents push Catholic school to resume paddling

NEW ORLEANS -- For the past 60 years, teachers and administrators at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans have wielded an 18-inch-long wooden paddle -- euphemistically called "the board of education" -- to administer corporal punishment to students for tardiness, sloppy uniform dress or other minor rules infractions.

When Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond and Josephite Father Edward Chiffriller, his order's superior general and head of the school's board of trustees, ordered the practice stopped following an intensive review process, their decision was met with outspoken opposition from parents, alumni, students, the school's board of directors, and both current and former administrators.

That disagreement played out during a three-hour, 50-minute "disciplinary town-hall meeting" Feb. 24 at the St. Augustine gym. About 600 people attended.

As Archbishop Aymond and members of the Josephites' board of trustees sat at a table and listened, speaker after speaker -- including Josephite Father John Raphael, St. Augustine's president -- passionately explained why they supported the use of corporal punishment and asked that the moratorium be lifted.

First Indianapolis auxiliary since 1933 ordained

INDIANAPOLIS -- A witness to mystery.

That is how Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein described Bishop Christopher J. Coyne in a homily that he delivered just minutes before he ordained the Boston archdiocesan priest as the first auxiliary bishop for the church in central and southern Indiana since 1933.

"In a secularized world that believes only in what it sees, by your consecration and by what you do, Bishop Coyne, you will be a witness to mystery," Archbishop Buechlein said during the March 2 liturgy at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. "The very life and identity of a bishop -- and of priests -- are rooted in the order of faith, the order of the unseen and not in the secular order of values."

In a sense, the 1,000 people who filled the oldest Catholic church in Indianapolis also witnessed mystery during the two-hour ordination Mass.

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