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Faith & Parish

Secondary role suggested for rebel Episcopal church


Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams suggested Monday, July 27, that the Episcopal church may have to accept a secondary role in the Anglican Communion after voting to allow gay bishops and blessings for same-sex unions.

Williams, the spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, said "very serious anxieties have already been expressed," about the pro-gay resolutions approved this month by the Episcopal church at its General Convention in Anaheim, Calif.

Sticking with an imperfect (church) fit


Parish Life

In his rule, St. Benedict describes one of the decrees of monastic life. The monk "is to promise, before God and his saints to be stable" -- that is, to settle in a place, one place, for life. It is not an assumption we share. Indeed, the notion of a grown man still living in the house where he was born conjures images of instability, mental and emotional. We imagine Boo Radley, afraid of the world beyond his porch.

Our world is shaped and defined not by stability of place, but by mobility and its partner, consumer choice. The premise of consumer choice is that, somewhere, the perfect fit between product and purchaser exists. It is the responsibility of the producer to offer it, the responsibility of the purchaser to find it. Shop till you drop.

American churchgoers no longer prize stability of place in worship any more than we prize stability of place in the rest of our lives. Accordingly, there is a body of literature on leaving one church and finding another. Little is written about choosing to stay, as sticking with an uncomfortable fit is never thought wise in a consumer culture.

Mail-in ballot: bishops approve liturgical translations

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced July 17 that four liturgical texts for use in English-speaking countries have been approved by the bishops, nearly a month after their spring meeting in San Antonio.

The texts contain prefaces for the Mass for various occasions; votive Masses and Masses for the dead; solemn blessings for the end of Mass; and prayers over the people and eucharistic prayers for particular occasions, such as for evangelization or ordinations.

Solar power: Let the sunshine in


Mission Management

The “environmental crisis,” we are reminded, is a “moral challenge” that requires us “to examine how we use and share the goods of the earth, what we pass on to future generations, and how we live in harmony with God’s creation.”

Just the latest environmental pabulum from the trendy religious left? Hardly. Those words were promulgated by the U.S. bishops in their 1991 statement “Renewing the Earth: An Invitation to Reflection and Action on Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching.”

When Vatican II came to the Bronx, Part II


In the late sixties, for the first time I could remember, priests came to the house for dinner. Fr. Eugene was a favorite because he always performed a few magic tricks over coffee. Fr. Ignatius, who oversaw the altar boys, somehow scrounged up enough money from the modest parish fund one Christmas to buy each of us knock-hockey games.

There was Sr. Richard, of course, who taught us folk songs. Sr. Stephan was her best friend. By 1970, they would be allowed to revert to their birth names: Maryann and Karen -- it was a revelation to know them by their actual names, and picture them as real daughters who once wrote their own book reports and drew their own Mother's Day cards. By 1971, they would lose the face-enveloping nun's habits, too, and wear only a small scarf on their heads. But they were never demystified to me. They were always the face of the church in my eyes: only now that face had cheeks and hair -- and a smile.

Computer tool aims to optimize priest assignments


Mission Management

So few priests. So many parishes. What's a bishop to do? This question may rightly belong in a Sunday New York Times' crossword puzzle, but it's real and it's at the center of long-term planning in dioceses around the country. It becomes more complicated when priests' language skills are a key factor in parish assignments. Some dioceses, for example, have parishes that are predominantly Spanish-speaking, but there are not enough Spanish-speaking priests to cover the parishes.

Fired! Do church employees get unemployment benefits?


Mission Management

Unemployment is difficult. For many, it's downright tragic. But at least when the hammer falls there's the guarantee of a half year's worth of benefits through the government's unemployment compensation system.

Unless you work for the church. Churches and religious organizations are exempt from paying unemployment taxes, which fund the system.

During another brutal economic environment — the Great Depression — Congress enacted the Federal Unemployment Tax Act in 1935. The act called for a cooperative federal-state program of benefits to unemployed workers. It is financed by a federal excise tax on wages paid by employers in "covered employment," explains attorney and certified public accountant Richard Hammar, in an article titled "The Church as Employer: Unemployment Taxes" (Church Law & Tax Report).

The federal act was amended in 1970 "to exempt service performed in the employ of a church … or an organization which is operated primarily for religious purposes and which is operated, supervised, controlled or principally supported by a church," says Hammar.

When Vatican II came to the Bronx


Part One of Two parts

To this day, I'm no good at math. I blame Vatican II.

In the spring of 1968, I was in fifth grade at Immaculate Conception Grammar School on Gun Hill Road in The Bronx. I was struggling with long division, as taught by the "New Math" imposed back then on all junior high school students. With "New Math," it was not good enough to get the answer right -- you also had to utterly understand the theory behind the answer. In fact, it was better to get the theory right and the actual answer wrong.

That was, by happenstance, also a very Roman-Catholic-church-way-of-thinking about nearly everything. It was an outlook that served the church well for hundreds of years -- until suddenly, with Vatican II, it did not. And in 1968, in the spring, Vatican II came to my working-class neighborhood in The Bronx. It would change my church and it would change me. Ultimately, it would keep us together.

Prop 8 has Catholics divided at the parish level


Researchers will tell you: it takes a lot to stir American Catholics out of their pews and into engagement with their church and parish. Most people are content to sit through Mass, grab a donut on the way out, and get moving with their Sunday.

One hot topic changed all that on a Sunday last November in my Southern California parish: the battle over Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage ballot initiative supported by the Catholic Church and eventually approved by voters.

First a little recent news: the Los Angeles Times noted in an editorial that Prop. 8 continues to divide the state. The locus of that lingering anger is state now Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George -- who's had the poor luck to rule both in favor and against single-sex marriage.

Early last year, George ruled legislators couldn't ban same-sex marriage on their own. But when voters did just that via the ballot, George then sided with them -- ruling the will of the people should not be overturned by court fiat. So now both sides in the debate are going after him.



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