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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-9-2012

By Catholic News Service


Study of never-married Catholics gives insight into future of vocations

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a survey of Catholics age 14 and older, about 12 percent of males and 10 percent of females said they considered a religious vocation at least "a little seriously," a study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University found. The findings, released Oct. 9, give church leaders a vast array of data on which to base positive messages about religious life for teenagers and young adults, said Father Shawn McKnight, executive director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which commissioned the survey. "When you consider 12 percent of all male youth and 10 percent of all women ... just a very small percentage (committing to a vocation) would make a tremendous difference," Father McKnight told Catholic News Service. "The survey offers solid evidence, credible evidence to base our judgments on how to promote vocations," he added. Broken down, 3 percent of male respondents and 2 percent of female respondents indicate they have "very seriously" considered a vocation, according to the study, "Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life Among Never-Married U.S. Catholics." It was commissioned by the USCCB secretariat. Projected over the Catholic population of the United States, those figures represent 350,000 never-married men and more than 250,000 never-married women who may have very seriously considered a vocation, concluded CARA researchers Mark Gray and Mary Gautier, who conducted the study.

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Concern for protecting nature spurs Catholic youths to visit Washington

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As 19-year-old Annalisa Martinez put it, "It's our job to be leaders." She made the comment after she and a group of her peers from a Catholic parish in Denver met with Colorado's U.S. senators on Capitol Hill for an environmental cause: urging federal protection for Browns Canyon in Colorado. Ranging in age from 12 to 19, the Latino youths from Denver's St. Cajetan Parish and an organization called Environmental Learning for Kids were brought together by the Washington-based Hispanic Access Foundation. Maite Arce, executive director of the foundation, founded the nonprofit after growing up as the child of Mexican immigrants who had trouble accessing information and resources in their new country. The foundation has partnerships with mostly faith-based community groups, such as St. Cajetan, to organize events and programs that inform Hispanics about education, voting, the environment and other issues, as well as to promote responsible citizenship and community involvement. St. Cajetan is one of the oldest Hispanic Catholic parishes in the Denver Archdiocese. Over a three-day visit in Washington in mid-September, the youths' schedule included a meeting with Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Colorado Democrats, to express their concern for Browns Canyon and to promote scholarships for Hispanic students. The canyon, southwest of the Denver metro area, is a popular place for hiking, camping, viewing wildlife, fishing and white-water rafting. Udall has proposed that Congress designate it as national monument or wildlife preserve. It's a place the youths and many others have grown to love, they said. Last year, the Hispanic Access Foundation and Environmental Learning for Kids sponsored a fishing education day there; 250 families participated in the trip, the first of its kind for many in the group. This past summer, 68 youths and their parents went on a camping trip to the canyon.

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'No religious affiliation' now describes nearly fifth of US population

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- People who say they are unaffiliated with any religion constitute nearly 20 percent of the American public, making them almost as numerous as Catholics, who accounted for 22 percent of participants in a new Pew Research Center study released Oct. 9. The survey of 2,973 adults conducted this summer found people who say they are atheist, agnostic or "nothing in particular" grew by almost 5 percentage points since 2007, from 15.3 percent to 19.6 percent of the population. The greatest shift toward "nothing in particular" apparently came from Protestants, who now make up 48 percent of the population, compared to 53 percent in 2007, the telephone study found. "These are not necessarily nonbelievers," said Greg Smith, senior researcher for the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, at an Oct. 9 discussion on the study hosted by "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly," a PBS TV show. "They're just not associated with any faith in particular." The religiously unaffiliated tend to be younger than the general public, the survey showed, with 35 percent between ages 18 and 29, and 37 percent ages 30-49. Of the general public, about 22 percent are between 18 and 29, and 35 percent between 30 and 49. Kim Lawton, managing editor for "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly," said although the study shows that the vast majority of Americans still are affiliated with a faith, the report stands out for the rapid growth it shows in the unaffiliated segment. The program planned a three-week series on the study starting Oct. 12. The study found declines since 2007 of 1 percent among those who say they are Catholic, 3 percent among white mainline churches, 2 percent among white evangelical churches and no change among black Protestants, Mormons or Orthodox. Those who said they identify with "another faith" grew over the five-year period, from 4 percent to 6 percent of the survey. Only 2.4 percent of the unaffiliated category described themselves as atheist, and just 3.3 percent said they are agnostic. The majority in the category -- 13.9 percent of the total survey -- described themselves as nothing in particular.

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Pope's book on Jesus' infancy to be presented at Frankfurt book fair

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus was not born "once upon a time" as in a fable, but in a historically verifiable place and moment that were detailed accurately in the Gospel of Luke, Pope Benedict XVI writes in the third volume of his work, "Jesus of Nazareth." Two short excerpts from the pope's book, which is scheduled to be released before Christmas, were distributed by the Italian publisher Rizzoli Oct. 9, along with an announcement that Rizzoli would present the book at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Rizzoli said the book fair would be an opportunity to finalize deals for translations of the pope's book in 20 languages, including English. The Vatican publishing house announced in September that it had made an agreement with Rizzoli to handle the sale of international rights to the book. The book fair, one of the world's most important, runs from Oct. 10 to Oct. 14. Rizzoli also released a facsimile of the book's cover, which is similar to that used for the first two volumes: The first, published in 2007, covered the period from Jesus' baptism to his Transfiguration; while the second, regarding his passion and death, came out in 2011. The pope's latest literary effort uses the Gospels to explore the infancy and childhood of Jesus.

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For synod members, media part of the problem, part of the solution

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church needs to use its media and social networks to spread the faith because much of the news media cover the church in a way that "is full of lies," Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest told the Synod of Bishops. Across Europe, there is "a spreading ignorance about the Christian faith," which is exacerbated by the media "misinforming the public as to the content of our faith," the cardinal told the synod Oct. 8. Cardinal Erdo, president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, was one of five speakers summarizing the state of evangelization in different regions of the world. Each of the five mentioned the role of the media, and several insisted on the church's obligation to use social networks to reach new generations of Catholics. The Hungarian cardinal told the synod that Europeans are losing an awareness of just how essential Christianity has been to the development of their cultures, democracy and the human rights they hold so dear. The loss, he said, is a "consequence of an audiovisual culture" in which clear concepts and logical reasoning are ignored. Mexican Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla, president of the Latin American bishops' council, told the synod that since the Second Vatican Council, the Latin American bishops have focused on building community, entering into dialogue with the world around them and educating the faithful about their role in transforming society. Today, he said, the church must "employ new communications technologies to allow the life and mission of the church to be known and for dialogue with the world." In today's culture, he said, "the social communications media are most influential."

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Humility, solidarity are key to evangelization, synod members say

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Philippine archbishop told the Synod of Bishops that it is possible to preach the Gospel to the poor, but only as long as the preacher shares their poverty. "The Gospel can be preached to empty stomachs, but only if the stomach of the preacher is as empty as his parishioners' (stomachs)," Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan told the Synod of Bishops Oct. 9. The archbishop was one of several synod members who emphasized the importance of humility and solidarity with the poor as the Catholic Church attempts to strengthen the faith of its members and encourage lapsed Catholics to return. Archbishop Villegas' speech to the synod was met with applause, said Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, who briefed reporters about what occurred in the synod hall. "The new evangelization calls for new humility," Archbishop Villegas told the synod. "The Gospel cannot thrive in pride." Following Christ means imitating him with "a deep sense of awe and reverence for humanity," he said. "Evangelization has been hurt and continues to be impeded by the arrogance of its messengers." A fellow Filipino, Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, also emphasized the importance of imitating Jesus' humility, which he said was seen most clearly in Jesus' willingness to become human, to suffer and to die for humanity. Jesus' humility allowed him to demonstrate real love and concern for all people, particularly "those neglected and despised by the world," and the church must do the same, Archbishop Tagle said.

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Unify evangelization efforts, don't stifle movements, says council head

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In its renewed commitment to evangelization during the Year of Faith, the church must unify its local pastoral efforts without allowing bureaucracy to suffocate new movements, said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. "We need to return to being communities that proclaim the living encounter with the Lord and who are able to express the joy of this encounter," he told journalists at a news conference Oct. 9, presenting details of the Oct. 11 Mass that will open the special year. "The new evangelization is one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council because Vatican II wanted to speak about God to the people of today," he said. But there must be balance between traditional church structures and new ecclesial movements, he said. What has to emerge is a church that moves forward as a whole, not one that emphasizes "the originality of a particular experience," he said in his speech to synod participants earlier the same day. While building this greater unity upon a common language and the "wealth of ecclesial and cultural traditions," the church must avoid "uniformity" in fulfilling its task, the archbishop told the bishops. There have been moments in the life of the church, he explained to journalists, when traditional church structures no longer furthered the task of evangelization but were actually "suffocating the evangelizing action of the church. I think there have been times we have overly bureaucratized ecclesial life and also the sacraments, sacramental life," he said.

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US bishops, at synod, talk of spirit and practice of evangelization

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Charitable works, rites of passage and the cultural mixing produced by globalization all offer opportunities for bringing lapsed Catholics back into the fold, but success in such efforts depends on personal repentance and collective inspiration, U.S. bishops told a Vatican gathering Oct. 9. On the second working day of the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization, five U.S. bishops addressed the spiritual conditions and the practical means of reaching out to baptized Catholics who have drifted away from the faith. "Globalization presents us with a providential moment for advancing the church's mission of transforming humanity into one family of God," Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles told Pope Benedict XVI and the assembly of bishops, religious superiors, official observers and experts in the Vatican's synod hall. However, the archbishop said, the fusion of cultures resulting from the integration of the world economy requires "new methods and new ways to help the men and women of our times to practice their faith. We need to find the 'language' that best presents the traditional means of sanctification -- the sacraments, prayer, works of charity -- in a way that is attractive and accessible to people living in the reality of a globalized, secular, urban society," Archbishop Gomez said. Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., called on the synod to "strongly and unequivocally affirm that justice and charity are at the heart of evangelization."

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'Quo Vadis': Former Irish president looks at collegiality, governance

DUBLIN (CNS) -- The former president of Ireland said an attitude of "creeping infallibility about everything" is increasingly apparent in the Catholic Church, while collegiality, one of the major aspirations of the Second Vatican Council, "is chaotic" because of the council's failure to articulate clear guidelines on church governance. Mary McAleese told Catholic News Service in a phone interview that what has emerged since Vatican II is an argument "against ever having another Vatican council." She said the church's best experts "cannot coherently explain the church's governance structures or their juridic infrastructure" largely because of Vatican II, which "failed to articulate clear guidelines for the future development of conciliar collegiality or church governance at any level." Co-governance by bishops never happened, she said. The former professor of criminal law at Trinity College Dublin has swapped the elegance of the Irish presidential residence for the lecture halls of Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University to pursue a canon law degree. Discussing the thesis of her new book "Quo Vadis? Collegiality in the Code of Canon Law," she told CNS the church's code "carries inside it all the alleged indecisiveness of Vatican II about how the church would be governed, particularly the idea that the church would be governed in a collegial fashion." In the conclusion of the book, published by the Dublin-based Columba Press, McAleese wrote: "For those who hoped for greater co-governance of the universal church between the pope and the College of Bishops, it has been a journey of disappointment since the council. On the other side of the equation, the council fathers who worried that 'collegiality' would be a runaway horse that would do untold damage to the primacy of the pope and the unity of the church need not have worried."

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Comic actor Kevin James wants to 'glorify God in every way'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- He doesn't exactly advertise it, but the "king of Queens" is a Catholic family man. Kevin James, who played Doug Heffernan for nine seasons on the CBS sitcom and has since branched out into movies, has no problem talking about his values and how it affects his career. "I am involved in my faith, it becomes more and more -- you know, it becomes a difficult, difficult position. You have a platform and you don't want to do anything that doesn't glorify God in every way," James told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview from Philadelphia. "I can't play a priest in every film, either. You definitely want to have a positive message. I want to be able to sit and watch my movies with my children," added James, who is married with two daughters and one son. Having control over and writing the material, according to him, is a key to "be inspiring and (to) move people in a positive way." James, 47, is promoting his upcoming film comedy, "Here Comes the Boom." In it, he plays a high school science teacher who once loved his work but has "lost his mojo," as he put it, but gets it back when budget cuts threaten the job of the music teacher (Henry Winkler), who never lost his love for teaching. James' character even goes so far as to train to be a mixed martial arts fighter -- which James did in real life to prepare for the movie -- in the belief that even a loser's payday in such a bout will reap the bucks necessary to save the music program. It's not that James admits to some road-to-Damascus moment that made his faith all the more relevant to him. "I was born and raised Catholic and absolutely love my faith and learn more and more about it all the time," he said. "It's nice to have that going into whatever you do, whatever part of life you take upon yourself."

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Australian archbishop: Same-sex marriage dismantles key institution

PERTH, Australia (CNS) -- Same-sex "marriage" is not an extension of marriage rights but a dismantling of an institution on which the well-being of societies depend, wrote an Australian archbishop. Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth wrote his comments in the archdiocesan newspaper, The Record, before heading off as one of Australia's two elected delegates to the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization at the Vatican. The role of the family and the church's values, including "the dignity and complementary nature of man and woman, created in the image of God," are expected to be topics at the synod. In September, same-sex marriage proposals were defeated in the Australian federal parliament and the Tasmanian state parliament. South Australia is set to be the next battleground, with a gay-marriage bill expected to be debated in the state's parliament early next year. Archbishop Costelloe wrote that any "attempt to redefine marriage in such a way as to sever the link between the love of the partners in the marriage and the rights and needs of their children is a misuse of the state's power. Our governments did not create the institution of marriage, and they should not seek to dismantle it by altering its fundamental character," he wrote. "Rather, as many commentators have noted, the foundational role which families play in the well-being of a society underpins the responsibilities of governments to provide special protection and support to this institution." Catholic tradition, Archbishop Costelloe wrote, does not compartmentalize between religious matters and "purely secular matters." Catholic convictions about marriage are based on the common good and the teachings of the faith, he said.

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Erie Diocese greets its new bishop with 'open arms and open hearts'

ERIE, Pa. (CNS) -- Live television coverage of the ordination of Bishop Lawrence T. Persico revealed a humanity that is already endearing him to the northwest Pennsylvania flock he will now shepherd as Erie's 10th bishop. The microphone he was wearing picked up private comments he made during the nearly three-hour-long ceremony, which required a considerable amount of choreography as he knelt, stood, sat and prostrated himself on the floor of St. Peter Cathedral in Erie Oct. 1 while the congregation prayed for him. When Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, principal consecrator, gently turned the crosier in Bishop Persico's hand so that it faced in the correct direction, Bishop Persico flashed a big grin, leaned toward the archbishop and admitted, "I'm new at this!" The planned welcome remarks by retired Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, had to be given by the vicar general, Msgr. Robert Smith, because Bishop Trautman was suffering from a severe case of laryngitis. Reading from the handwritten message, Msgr. Smith said, "Our new bishop comes in Christ's name, sent by the bishop of Rome to be the bishop of Erie. We welcome him with open arms and open hearts." Bishop Trautman, Erie's bishop from 1990 until his retirement in July, read the last paragraph of the message in a hoarse whisper, thanking his co-workers and urging all to "give your new shepherd the same loyal and faithful assistance you gave to me." Quoting St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians, he concluded: "And now, brothers and sisters, I must say goodbye -- encourage one another, live in harmony and may the God of love and peace be with you."

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Issues, faith that spurred Cesar Chavez persist in the fields

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cesar Chavez, for whom a national monument was dedicated Oct. 8 in Keene, Calif., was a labor leader, but he was more than just a labor leader. Co-founder of the United Farm Workers in 1962, Chavez, a lifelong Catholic, made enemies among the Catholic landholders in central California when he organized the migrant grape and lettuce pickers -- themselves predominantly Catholic -- who toiled in their fields. Chavez galvanized a nation already in the throes of such divisive issues as civil rights and the Vietnam War with his calls for boycotts of grapes, lettuce and wine from growers who refused to sign union contracts with the UFW. He also drew attention to "la causa" -- the cause of farmworkers -- by taking part in several protracted water-only fasts in an effort to bring more justice, and even basic amenities, like water and toilet facilities, to the workers. Like Mohandas Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. before him, Chavez was an advocate of nonviolence. He would call off planned protests and demonstrations, saying he'd rather be seen as caving in to the employers than risking violence. And, like Gandhi and Rev. King, prayer was central to his life and work. But because of the high-profile activism in which Chavez engaged, his faith did not receive the same level of attention. "I think that a lot of times the American population knew of some of his spirituality and the depth of that," said Redemptorist Father Mike McAndrew, director of multicultural and campesino ministry in the Diocese of Fresno, Calif., where the UFW had its start. "I think that for a charismatic figure such as Cesar, that was based on his education, his development, his spirituality and all that. I don't think people appreciated that depth in him."


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