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Faith & Parish

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.

Student loan debt may prevent many U.S. Catholics from entering religious orders


WASHINGTON -- Student debt might be forcing many Catholic U.S. college graduates considering religious life to postpone or even forego testing their vocation, a new study reports.

"In essence, they're too poor to take the vow of poverty," commented the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, which conducted the study.

Lay ministry association shows us our inheritance


Years ago a campus minister at a prominent Catholic university bemoaned the fact that much of the institutional church was squandering its inheritance of laypeople committed to a ministerial call within the church in favor of a continued call for prayers for vocations to priesthood and religious life. Fortunately, for 35 years the National Association for Lay Ministry (NALM) has been working to counter that impression. It has given a public and unified voice to the many lay ministers who work in parishes, prisons, universities, diocesan offices, hospitals and retreat centers, to name just a few.

CARA reports U.S. seminary theology numbers highest since 1988-89


WASHINGTON -- U.S. Catholic seminary enrollment in theology this year is the highest in almost a quarter-century, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reported in the spring issue of its quarterly newsletter, The CARA Report.

The reported growth in seminarians, however, does not begin to match the growth in the U.S. Catholic population, which has increased by about 25 percent in that time period.

"This year's total of 3,723 is the highest enrollment since the 3,788 reported for 1988-89," CARA said.

"During the academic year 2011-12, enrollment increased by 63 diocesan seminarians and religious enrollment by 52 seminarians" over the 2010-11 figures, the report states.

CARA, based at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., has been reporting yearly enrollment figures and other data on U.S. Catholic seminaries and seminarians since the 1967-68 academic year.

At that time, there were more than 8,000 seminarians studying theology, more than 13,400 students in college seminaries, and almost 16,000 high school seminarians.

Methodists uphold policy that calls homosexuality 'incompatible with Christian teaching'


Despite emotional protests and fierce lobbying from gay rights groups, United Methodists voted on Thursday (May 2) to maintain their denomination's stance that homosexuals acts are "incompatible with Christian teaching."

Two "agree to disagree" proposals were soundly defeated during separate votes by the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered for the United Methodist Church's General Conference in Tampa, Fla.

One proposal would have replaced the "incompatible" phrase in the Book of Discipline, which contains the denomination's laws and doctrines. Both proposals sought to soften the disputed doctrine by adding more ambiguous statements about homosexuality.

Gay rights advocates in the UMC viewed the compromise proposals as the best chance to advance their cause at this year's General Conference, which convenes every four years. On Friday, delegates are expected to debate the church's bans on noncelibate gay clergy and same-sex marriage.

Wisconsin bishop threatens denial of sacraments for 'rumors and gossip'


MILWAUKEE -- Despite warning signs that they would not win the fight to oust their priests, parishioners in a small Wisconsin town didn't relent. Neither did their bishop, Robert Morlino of Madison.

After battling for almost two years, members of St. Mary Parish in Platteville were told by Morlino on April 25 that if they persisted in what he characterized as spreading "rumors and gossip," the Catholics would face some of the church's harshest sanctions: the denial of the sacraments of Communion, confession and burial.

Louisiana cemetery to take in unclaimed bodies


Since his death in October 2009, the remains of Brian Walker have sat inside the coroner’s morgue in Lafayette, La. When he died, no one claimed his body. But on April 28, Walker will finally be put to rest, along with 90-plus other unclaimed persons.

Through a steadfast partnership stretching over two years between the coroner’s office, the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and a Catholic Service worker, 95 unclaimed persons, as well as numerous fetuses, will receive a proper burial in the cathedral’s nearly two-century-old cemetery.

Methodists to debate gay clergy and same-sex unions


As nearly 1,000 delegates from across the world gather in Tampa, Fla., for the United Methodist Church's General Conference, gay and lesbian activists have printed pamphlets promoting their cause in five languages, including Portuguese and Swahili.

The UMC's global reach, stretching from the Philippines to Philadelphia, compels the multilingual lobbying. Nearly 40 percent of the delegates, who meet through May 4, live outside the United States, according to church leaders.

"We see it as a challenge to deal with the cultural differences," said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of Germany, who will be installed in Tampa as president of the UMC's Council of Bishops. "But we also see it as a gift."

Convened every four years, General Conference legislates decisions on everything from pensions to prayer books. But few debates garner as much attention and acrimony as the role of gays and lesbians in the UMC.

The homosexuality debate dates to 1972, when a phrase calling homosexual activity "incompatible with Christian teaching" was added to the Book of Discipline, which contains the denomination's laws and doctrines. The UMC also bans noncelibate gay clergy and same-sex marriage.



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