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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Dec-20-2011

By Catholic News Service


Percentage of Americans who are married reaches all-time low, Pew says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood on the rise, the percentage of Americans who are currently married has reached an all-time low. A new report from the Pew Research Center analyzing Census Bureau data found that only 51 percent of Americans 18 and over were married in 2010, compared with 72 percent in 1960. Among Hispanics and African-Americans, the decline is even more steep. "If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years," said the report by Pew senior writer D'Vera Cohn, senior demographer Jeffrey S. Passel and research associate Wendy Wang. Fifty-five percent of white Americans were married in 2010, down from 74 percent 50 years earlier. But among Hispanics and blacks, married people are already in the minority. Forty-eight percent of Hispanics and 31 percent of African-Americans were married in 2010, compared with 72 percent and 61 percent, respectively, in 1960. The authors said it was "beyond the scope of this analysis to explain why marriage has declined," but they noted that its popularity has fallen less sharply among college graduates. They said a recent drop in the number of new marriages could have to do with the economic recession, but the linkage "is not entirely clear." The Pew report found that the median age at first marriage has been steadily rising for both men and women over the past five decades, from 22.8 for men and 20.3 for women in 1960. The median age in 2010 was 26.5 for women and 28.7 for men in 2010. Reinforcing the trend of a rising median age for marriage was the percentage of Americans ages 20 to 24 who had ever been married. In 1960, 60 percent of that age group had married, while in 2010 only 14 percent had. Among those between the ages of 35 and 39, 93 percent reported having ever been married in 1960, compared to 77 percent in 2010.

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Mother Marianne only superior to answer call to help leprosy patients

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Blessed Marianne Cope, as the head of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Syracuse, N.Y., led the first group of sisters to the Hawaiian Islands in 1883 to establish a system of nursing care for leprosy patients. Of 50 religious superiors in the United States, Canada and Europe who were asked for help, she was the only one to accept the challenge. When she died in 1918 on the island of Molokai, a Honolulu newspaper wrote: "Seldom has the opportunity come to a woman to devote every hour of 30 years to the mothering of people isolated by law from the rest of the world. She risked her own life in all that time, faced everything with unflinching courage and smiled sweetly through it all." On Dec. 19, Pope Benedict XVI cleared the way for Mother Marianne's canonization by signing a decree recognizing a second miracle attributed to her intercession, but no date has been set for the canonization ceremony. The pope's action followed a Dec. 6 ruling by the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes. The congregation confirmed a unanimous ruling by the medical board and theologians at the Vatican that a woman's healing was declared inexplicable since doctors had expected her to die and were amazed at her survival. No other details of the case were released. Mother Marianne was born Barbara Koob Jan. 23, 1838, in Heppenheim, Germany. She was not yet 2 when her parents brought her and her three siblings to the United States and settled in Utica, N.Y. The family later Americanized their surname as Cope. She became a U.S. citizen when her father was naturalized in 1855.

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'Exuberant jubilation' greets news Blessed Kateri to be canonized

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The announcement of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha's impending canonization "is the news we've been waiting for shortly after her beatification," said Sister Kateri Mitchell about her namesake. The waiting, though, has taken a long time. Blessed Kateri was beatified in 1980. Regarding her reaction to the news Dec. 19 from the Vatican that a second miracle attributed to Blessed Kateri has been recognized, "I guess the word is overwhelming and also just exuberant with jubilation," said Sister Kateri, laughing. A Sister of St. Ann, Sister Kateri said she was "blessed" with receiving the name Kateri when she entered religious life in 1959. Sister Kateri has been executive director of the Tekakwitha Conference National Center in Great Falls, Mont., for the past 14 years and has been affiliated with the center since the 1970s. At the center, joy was the reigning emotion as calls and emails came in. "We've had a call from a bishop, who's very excited, and an email from another bishop who's very excited. Also some of our members received the news in email ... and they're responding with such joy it's unbelievable," she told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview. A member of the Mohawk Nation as was Blessed Kateri, Sister Kateri (pronounced CAT-tery) was raised on the St. Regis (Akwesasne) Mohawk International Reservation, which stretches from New York into Canada. She said her parents had a devotion to Kateri Tekakwitha and would frequently make what for them was a 200-mile trip to Blessed Kateri's birthplace and the town where she was raised. Blessed Kateri was born in 1656 in a village on the Mohawk River called Ossernenon, now Auriesville, N.Y. A smallpox epidemic left her orphaned at age 4, and she was raised by her relatives. But after she was baptized at age 20, against the wishes of family members and many in her clan, Kateri fled to Canada, taking refuge at St. Francis Xavier Mission in the Mohawk Nation at Caughnawaga, not too far from Montreal.

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Catholic trends in marriage mirror society's, but vision is different

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Like the number of marriages among Americans in general, the number of marriages performed in the Catholic Church has been in decline over the past few decades. "Since 1972, the number of marriages celebrated in a Catholic church has fallen nearly 60 percent" in the U.S., said Sheila Garcia, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, citing a study conducted for the secretariat by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University and released in 2008. In 1972, there were 8.6 marriages in the church per 1,000 Catholics, but last year the figure was 2.6 church marriages for every 1,000 Catholics, she said. That trend is among the reasons that led the bishops to launch their National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage in 2004 and the related "For Your Marriage" website to help people better understand the Catholic viewpoint on marriage and to strengthen the bonds of couples, whether they are Catholic or not, married in the church or not. "What we have said is that you need three things to support marriage -- a vision, skills and a supportive community," Garcia told Catholic News Service. "The church clearly offers a vision for marriage. We believe you can have a marriage that is faithful, permanent and open to children. We believe with God's grace that can be achieved." Through practical articles on such topics as finance and communications, the website at http://foryourmarriage.org offers tools to help couples strengthen their marriages. A campaign involving television and radio spots, print ads and billboards works to communicate the message that "the church cares about marriage as an institution and cares about your marriage," Garcia said. "You can turn to the church for support."

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Catholic papers' deadlines could shift if Postal Service downsizes

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A proposal by the U.S. Postal Service to close more than half of its mail-processing facilities around the nation could mean earlier deadlines for Catholic papers. Another potential change affecting all mail delivery would be the end of Saturday service. After complaints from 22 senators, though, the Postal Service issued a five-month moratorium on the plans Dec. 13. The Postal Service has been showing red ink in the billions in recent years. While some of the losses are the result of changes Congress instituted in 2006 on the agency funding future retirees' health care benefits in advance, it is possible the Postal Service may not have enough cash on hand sometime in 2012 to meet its payroll. "For Catholic newspapers, if they've been targeting Saturday (delivery), they'll have to target Friday," said Tony Conway, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers. "There'll be some sacrifice," Conway added, but the sacrifices are more palatable than a hike in postage rates. "We think that's the worst of all possible worlds," he said. The changes suggested by the Postal Service, which have yet to be acted on by Congress, would virtually eliminate next-day delivery for first-class mail sent by 5 p.m. "There's no advantage to being in a big city" if the changes take effect, Conway said. Conway said the Postal Service's excess capacity is in the processing of first-class mail, which in terms of volume is down close to half from a decade ago, largely because of email and other forms of digital communication, with the volume expected to decline by half again by 2020. The closing of more than half of its 461 processing plants and the elimination of Saturday mail delivery, proposed earlier, would cut into the Postal Service's workforce; Conway estimated that 80 percent of the Postal Service's costs are labor-related.

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Bishops hope North Korea's regime change will bring peace, unification

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has opened a window of opportunity for renewed dialogue and possible reunification of the peninsula, said two South Korean bishops. Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Cheju, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, said the leader's death Dec. 17 "may be the beginning of a turning point for the path of the reunification of the Koreas. We hope that the Lord gives the light and strength to the North Korean brothers so that there is a return for a policy focused on dialogue, peace and reconciliation," he said in an interview Dec. 19 with Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency. Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik of Daejeon, South Korea, told the Rome-based AsiaNews Dec. 19 that "we must focus on dialogue for peace but remain alert." He said he feared the leader's death would prompt "a period of great confusion. Inside the regime, there will (be) a clash between the party and the army. The young age of the heir will not help a smooth transition," said Bishop You. Kim's youngest son, 27-year-old Kim Jong-un, was declared the country's next leader. Kim, who suffered a stroke in 2008, had ruled the reclusive communist state since 1994, following the death of his father, Kim Il-sung. Bishop You said the new leader lacks the political experience needed to guide the country's relations with the United States, South Korea and China.

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Church agencies rush aid to thousands of Philippine flood victims

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines (CNS) -- Church agencies teamed with international aid groups and the Philippine government to assist tens of thousands of people left homeless in northern Mindanao by flash flooding caused by an intense tropical storm that left at least 950 people dead and hundreds more missing. The country's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that about 338,000 people in 13 provinces were affected by Tropical Storm Washi, which unleashed floods and landslides as people slept in their homes across northern Mindanao late Dec. 16. Authorities Dec. 20 placed the death toll at 957. Philippine President Benigno Aquino has declared a national calamity in the wake of the floods, which affected small but densely populated areas of Mindanao. The thousands of people remaining in shelters are at risk of disease, authorities said. Church sources in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, two of the worst hit areas, say exact casualty figures are difficult to pin down because of the extensive damage caused by the storm, the Asian church news agency UCA News reported. Joe Curry, country representative for Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency, told Catholic News Service Dec. 19 from Cagayan de Oro, a city of about 600,000, that about 35,000 people who lost their homes are being housed in evacuation centers in schools and outdoor covered gymnasiums. Overall, an estimated 75,000 of the city's residents living near a river that flows down from nearby mountains on its way to the ocean were affected by the flooding, he said.

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Victims can meet with Irish bishop who failed to report abuse charges

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Survivors of clerical sexual abuse in the Cloyne Diocese will be able to meet with the bishop under whose leadership allegations of abuse went unreported to civil authorities in violation of established policy. Under a new plan announced Dec. 19 by Archbishop Dermot Clifford, apostolic administrator of the Cloyne Diocese, victims would be able to meet Bishop John Magee and Msgr. Denis O'Callaghan, who oversaw the diocese's child protection program as vicar general. The plan was announced as the final chapter of a report into the handling of abuse in the Cloyne Diocese was published. The chapter revealed that while Bishop Magee ran the diocese, abuse allegations were not reported to civil authorities. The chapter of the report by Judge Yvonne Murphy was withheld from publication in July by Ireland's High Court until court proceedings involving a priest charged with sexual abuse and identified only as "Father Ronat" concluded. Bishop Magee, a former private secretary to Popes Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, initially stepped aside in 2009 following criticism of his failures to implement proper child protection policies. He resigned a year later. Murphy's report severely criticized Msgr. O'Callaghan, who was accused of thwarting church policy that required automatic reporting of allegations to civil authorities as far back as 1996. Bishop Magee and Msgr. O'Callaghan were found to be concealing reports of clergy sexual abuse as recently as 2008, according to the report's findings. The newly released chapter reiterated criticism of both Bishop Magee and Msgr. O'Callaghan, but also noted that "at least three priests of the diocese appear to have ignored complaints." The outreach program, which Archbishop Clifford said was successful for victims in the United States, is expected to be rolled out in early 2012.

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Canadian court hears that Bishop Lahey poses no danger to minors

OTTAWA, Ontario (CCN) -- Bishop Raymond Lahey is not a pedophile and poses virtually no risk of sexual abuse or violence against children, a forensic psychiatrist testified during a sentencing hearing for the prelate who has pleaded guilty to child pornography charges. John Bradford, the psychiatrist who examined Bishop Lahey, described him Dec. 19, the first day of the hearing, as a homosexual with an addiction to Internet pornography. The bishop also entertains sadomasochistic fantasies, but indicated during questioning that he has never acted on those fantasies, Bradford said at the hearing. Bradford said that in a sexual history inventory, Bishop Lahey revealed that he had engaged in "a number of one-night stands" before settling into a "long-standing relationship that has lasted 10 years" and which the bishop hopes to continue when he leaves prison. Michael Edelson, Bishop Lahey's attorney, later said he knew about the romantic relationship and that the other man was not a cleric but a "civilian." Bishop Lahey pleaded guilty May 5 to a charge of possession of child pornography for importation stemming from his arrest at the Ottawa airport in September 2009. Authorities discovered the images on the bishop's personal computer. The bishop opted to go directly to jail before sentencing and has served more than seven months behind bars. Because of that, his attorneys contended during the hearing, Bishop Lahey should be released immediately and placed on probation. They argued Bishop Lahey should get two-for-one credit for time already served and that the time should be applied to the one-year minimum sentence required in such cases. Until February 2010, Canadians could receive double credit for time served prior to sentencing. Charges were filed against the bishop in September 2009 under the old law. Sentencing was set for Jan. 4.

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Prague archbishop remembers Havel as friend, 'fellow prisoner'

PRAGUE (CNS) -- Calling former Czech President Vaclav Havel a "friend and fellow prisoner," the president of the Czech bishops' conference said the entire nation owes Havel a debt of gratitude for its freedom and the new flourishing of Czech life and culture. Archbishop Dominik Duka of Prague, who was imprisoned with Havel by the communists, asked that the bells of all Catholic churches in the Czech Republic ring at 6 p.m. Dec. 18 in memory of the former president who died that morning at the age of 75. The archbishop, who met Havel in prison in 1981 and continued to meet with him after the end of communism in 1989, was scheduled to celebrate Havel's funeral Mass Dec. 23 in St. Vitus Cathedral. "He knew the loss of freedom, the denial of human dignity, oppression and imprisonment," Archbishop Duka said in a statement posted Dec. 18 on the Czech bishops' website. "I am convinced that everyone across the country, regardless of political or religious beliefs, owes him honor and thanks." Havel, a playwright and essayist, was one of the founders of the Charter 77 movement, which began criticizing the communist government of then-Czechoslovakia, particularly for its lack of respect for human rights, in 1977. He served four years of hard labor and nine months in prison for dissident activities before becoming head of state after the 1989 "Velvet Revolution" that toppled communism. He resigned in 1992 when Slovakia declared its independence, but was elected president of the Czech Republic six months later.

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Country star wanted newest album to sound 'like you were in church'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Collin Raye, the Catholic country singer who had a string of hits in the 1990s, said he wanted to make his latest album "feel like you were in church for an hour or so." "His Love Remains," the title of Raye's new release, contains some familiar church melodies, like "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" and "Here I Am, Lord." In the liner notes to the album, Raye, 51, said he was inspired to make the album from witnessing his granddaughter Haley's struggle with a disease that ultimately claimed her life. Haley would be 10 were she still alive, he noted. "Any anger or frustration I had for the Lord not getting involved the way I wanted him to get involved went away the moment she passed away," he said. "He gave us this peace that was his from the beginning." Making a religious album was "something I'd been dreaming of doing for over 20 years," Raye added. "So I said, 'Let's do it, let's do it, let's make the best one possible.' I'm thinking maybe God has given me a new niche here. If I did nothing but these kinds of records the rest of my life, I'd be a happy camper." After a career with No. 1 singles and platinum albums, "I would be thrilled to have a hit record on contemporary Christian radio, because that's crossing the barriers," Raye said. "That's a primarily Protestant fan base. To have a hit like that in that fan base would be a coup for me." Raye became a Catholic in the early1980s. After a show when he was chatting with a married couple who were fans of his, he noticed the wife wearing a necklace bearing a crucifix. Before the conversation ended, Raye said he asked the couple if he could go to Mass with them. Raised "a heavy, heavy Baptist," by his own reckoning, in Texarkana, Texas, Raye, in a Dec. 7 telephone interview with Catholic News Service, said he felt he always had a good relationship with God. "I have a pretty good Bible knowledge," he added. "But I always felt there had to be something more to it."

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Pope advances sainthood causes of Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI advanced the sainthood causes of Blessed Marianne Cope of Molokai and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. He also formally recognized the martyrdom of 64 victims of the Spanish Civil War and advanced the causes of 18 other men and women. During a meeting Dec. 19 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the pope signed the decrees recognizing the miracles needed for the canonizations of Blesseds Marianne and Kateri. Before a date is set for the canonization ceremonies, there must be an "ordinary public consistory," a formal ceremony opened and closed with prayer, during which cardinals present in Rome express their support for the pope's decision to create new saints. Blessed Marianne, who worked as a teacher and hospital administrator in New York, spent the last 30 years of her life ministering on the Hawaiian island of Molokai to those with leprosy. She died on the island in 1918 at age 80 and was beatified in St. Peter's Basilica in 2005. Blessed Kateri, known as the Lily of the Mohawks, was born to a Christian Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father in 1656 in upstate New York along the Mohawk River. She was baptized by a Jesuit missionary in 1676 when she was 20, and she died in Canada four years later. In June 1980, she became the first Native American to be beatified.

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Cardinal Levada, classmates celebrate 50 years of priesthood

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At the same altar in St. Peter's Basilica where they were ordained priests exactly 50 years ago, Cardinal William J. Levada and 17 of his classmates celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving "for the great gift of the priesthood" Dec. 20. Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, told the concelebrating cardinals, bishops and priests and several hundred family, friends and seminarians, "We do not anticipate some miraculous appearance again here to celebrate our 100th anniversary, so we ask you to sustain us with your prayers and your friendship in these our final priestly years," he said. The cardinal, a student at Rome's Pontifical North American College at the time, was ordained with 53 other men at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's in 1961. Four of the cardinal's classmates are U.S. bishops and concelebrated the anniversary Mass: Bishop Thomas G. Doran of Rockford, Ill.; retired Archbishop John C Favalora of Miami; Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of Buffalo, N.Y.; and Archbishop John G. Vlazny of Portland, Ore. Speaking at the end of the Mass, Cardinal Levada led the 17 in giving thanks to the Lord "for the priesthood we received 50 years ago as a great gift of our loving God." The homily was delivered by U.S. Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. After listening to the story of the Annunciation from the Gospel of Luke, the archbishop focused on how all believers, but especially priests, must be prepared to respond to God's plan like Mary did, saying, "Let it be done according to your will."


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