WASHINGTON (CNS) --- Catholics favor a variety of responses to the priest shortage but give less credence to official church teachings than they formerly did, according to the results of a survey commissioned by National Catholic Reporter newspaper. At least two-thirds of the respondents supported each of a number of alternatives --- priest-sharing, parish mergers, bringing in priests from another country, cutting the number of weekend Masses, having a deacon or layperson run the parish, and occasionally substituting Mass with a communion service. A growing majority --- 58 percent, compared to 53 percent six years ago --- also said "most priests don't expect the laity to be leaders, just followers." And at least three-quarters of the respondents agreed that laypeople had the right to decide how parish money should be spent, select their new pastor and decide on parish closings. It was the fifth such survey commissioned by the newspaper since 1987 and the first since 2005, when Pope Benedict XVI succeeded Blessed John Paul II as pope. Details of the survey, "Catholics in America," were published in the newspaper's Oct. 28 issue and released at a news conference Oct. 24 at the National Press Club in Washington. A majority of respondents for the first time said individuals had the final say in what is right or wrong in the areas of abortion, homosexuality and sex outside of marriage. A growing majority said the same about contraception, and 47 percent agreed on the subject of divorce and remarriage, up from 42 percent. A minority held that both individuals and church leaders had the final say in these five matters, while a smaller minority said church leaders alone should have the final say.
Mass attendance down, but Catholics remain loyal to their faith
WASHINGTON (CNS) --- Although Mass attendance continues to decline among American Catholics, loyalty to Catholic identification remains strong, according to the results of a new survey commissioned by National Catholic Reporter newspaper. Mass attendance by "pre-Vatican II" Catholics, born in 1940 or before, slipped to 54 percent, down 10 percentage points from the high recorded in the 1999 survey, but it still topped all age groups. The rate for "Vatican II" Catholics, those born 1941-60, is 31 percent; for "post-Vatican II" Catholics born 1961-78, 29 percent; and for "millennial" Catholics born since 1979, 23 percent. Older Catholics cited "I'm just not a religious person" as the reason they don't go to Mass more often, while younger Catholics cited family responsibilities as their principal reason. Still, healthy majorities in all age groups agreed with the statements, "I cannot imagine being anything but a Catholic" and "being a Catholic is a very important part of who I am." But no majority in any age group agreed with the statement, "Church is among the most important influences on my life."
Bishops visit U.S.-Mexico border, hear migrants' stories of violence
EL PASO, Texas (CNS) --- Thousands of Mexican citizens are fleeing the violence that continues to plague the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. That was the message from college professors, the director of a refuge for migrants and the migrants themselves to members of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions during a recent visit to El Paso. Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House in El Paso, told the eight bishops on the subcommittee Oct. 20 that there is a "steady stream" of refugees trying to escape their country's "police, military and government," as well as the nation's drug cartels. Howard Campbell, professor of anthropology, and Kathleen Staudt, professor of political science, both at the University of Texas at El Paso, also addressed the bishops about the violence in Juarez. El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, are twin cities joined by four bridges along the Rio Grande. The home missions subcommittee met in El Paso for their regular meeting to allocate assistance to the 87 mission dioceses in the United States. They chose to meet in El Paso to get a firsthand look at immigration and border violence issues that confront the church in the United States, said the chairman, Bishop Michael W. Warfel of Great Falls and Billings, Mont.
Historic bell weighing 5,330 pounds stolen from San Francisco cathedral
SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) --- A 5,330-pound church bell owned by the Archdiocese of San Francisco since 1889 has been stolen from the grounds of St. Mary's Cathedral, apparently for the scrap value of its copper. The bell was reported missing at 11 a.m. Oct. 24. It has been on a concrete slab in a garden in front of the cathedral at Geary Boulevard and Gough Street since 1970. "We cannot replace this historic and valuable item," said George Wesolek, director of communications and public policy for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. "Hopefully, the police will recover it, and we can put it back in its rightful place as a memory of the Catholic Church in San Francisco." The bell --- the size of the Liberty Bell, 62 inches in diameter --- was forged by McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore. It was given to the church by a San Rafael man, Duriham Carrigan, who was born in New York in 1839 and died in San Rafael in 1889. It was placed in the former St. Mary's Cathedral at Van Ness and O'Farrell Street the year Carrigan died. When that building was destroyed by fire in 1962 the bell was transferred to the site of the new cathedral as a memorial and historical artifact of the previous cathedral. The estimated replacement value of the bell is $75,000. The current scrap value of copper is approximately $2 to $2.50 a pound. The genuine bell-metal component of the stolen item is 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin.
Sister Patricia Chappell named executive director of Pax Christi USA
WASHINGTON (CNS) --- Helping people understand how the sin of racism undermines society's ability to overcome violence and economic injustice is the top priority for Sister Patricia Chappell as the new executive director of Pax Christi USA. "People really have to acknowledge that racism is a deep integral sin in our country and we have to admit it continues to be an institutional sin," Sister Patricia told Catholic News Service Oct. 24, shortly after the organization announced she would succeed David Robinson as head of the nationwide Catholic peace organization. "We have to acknowledge that, but then we have to be able to find ways to move forward, not just get stuck on the emotional piece of it all," said Sister Patricia, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Connecticut province. Her appointment closes Pax Christi's year of transition, which also saw the organization move its national headquarters from Erie, Pa., to Washington in order to work more closely with many Catholic and other faith-based organizations on a variety of justice issues. The role of racism in injustice has been a concern of Pax Christi USA for 20 years and has been the motivating factor for the organization's leader to undertake a years-long initiative to become a multicultural, anti-racist Catholic peace and justice movement. Sister Patricia also said she wants to reach people in the pews to understand that Pax Christi's work is rooted in Catholic social teaching. "We have to try to find some kind of way of having the priorities make sense to the ordinary people in the pew. We've got to move it from an abstract theoretical concept to making it real for the people in the pews and trying to find practical ways where we can invite people to be part of this movement," she explained.
Rome celebrates Blessed John Paul feast day; sainthood cause proceeds
ROME (CNS) --- Thousands of Catholics in Rome celebrated the first feast of Blessed John Paul II Oct. 22 and the promoter of his sainthood cause said he has received several reports of healings that could be the miracle needed for the late pope's canonization. Msgr. Slawomir Oder, the postulator of Pope John Paul's sainthood cause, told Vatican Radio, "I have received several very significant testimonies and am waiting for the complete documentation" that would allow him to judge which would be the most appropriate to submit to the Vatican. "I was particularly struck by the healing of a little girl who was in an almost desperate situation and another very touching testimony regarding the healing of a priest," he told the radio Oct. 22. The Polish priest also noted that for the first time many little boys and girls named Karol or Carolina or John Paul, Jean Pierre or Giovanni Paolo were able to celebrate their name day, an important day in many countries and cultures. He said that after Pope John Paul died in April 2005, "many people asked his intercession to obtain the grace of paternity and maternity, and having received that grace, they honored him by naming their children after him." In Rome, Blessed John Paul's feast was marked with two particularly large celebrations: the Diocese of Rome held a prayer vigil and Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the diocesan cathedral.
Caritas team heads to eastern Turkey to assess needs after quake
ISTANBUL (CNS) --- A team from Caritas offices in Turkey was headed east to assess needs in the region hit by the Oct. 23 earthquake. The magnitude 7.2 quake and multiple aftershocks left more than 260 people dead, but the death toll was expected to rise as workers shifted through debris. More than 1,000 people were injured in the quake, which wiped out sections of the city of Van and the town of Ercis. A statement from Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella Caritas agency based in Rome, said, "Caritas will assess the needs of people whose homes or livelihoods have been impacted by the quake. Access to the area's villages, where many mud-brick homes have collapsed, may be difficult."
More than 100 die in heavy rains; most of Central America to miss Rina
SAN SALVADOR (CNS) --- Central America, already flooded after 10 days of rain, appeared to be spared the brunt of Tropical Storm Rina as it continued northward. More than 100 people died during 10 days of heavy rains in Central America in mid-October, and the number of those affected by landslides and flooding surpassed 1 million. In El Salvador, 60 inches of rain fell in 10 days, exceeding the 34 inches during Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Ten percent of the nation was flooded. Prices of corn and beans began to rise because of the flooding. "The rains destroyed the dream that this year the peasant would get a good crop of corn," Yesenia Alfaro, Salvadoran coordinator for the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, told Catholic News Service. At least 48,000 Salvadorans were housed in temporary shelters. The U.S.-based Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, a lay Catholic organization working with people of all faiths, distributed food, blankets and mattresses to about 2,000 people in the most affected areas. Humberto Lopez, deputy director of Archdiocese of San Salvador's Emergency Commission, told CNS that many churches had been converted into shelters, because "right now the priority is to protect people."
Catholic students use Jesuit house as base to help Thai flood victims
BANGKOK (CNS) --- Catholic university students and staff used the Jesuit residence, Xavier Hall, as a base for relief efforts for flood victims on the outskirts of the capital. About 30 students from the Catholic Undergraduate Center of Thailand joined hundreds of other volunteers at two relief centers in Don Muang and Chatuchak sections of the city, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. The students helped fill sandbags and prepare emergency relief packages --- distributed by the Thai military --- for residents displaced by flooding. "During this semester break, our students had planned to go to Mae Hong Son (province), but because of the flood situation the CUCT committee decided to cancel the trip and offer volunteer service for flood relief work," said Jesuit Father Maharsono Probo, chaplain at the Catholic center. "We students have to contribute our support when society is facing a crisis," said CUCT president Setthawut Chanpensuk, a student at Assumption University. Setthawut has also volunteered in Rangsit, north of Bangkok, to help fill and place sandbags, noting, "People there are facing a very difficult situation." Students at Assumption University have asked their clubs to suspend all activities and pitch in for flood relief work.