Behind the Catholic flight from pews

Early in Father William Byron's research into why millions of Americans are leaving Catholic pews, he heard about one woman's tense encounter with a parish receptionist and he's been sharing the horror story ever since.The woman wanted to tell a priest about her feelings that she had lost "the Catholic church I grew up with." However, she wasn't sure she wanted to share the details with the woman who answered the parish telephone -- who kept pushing for specifics.The petitioner finally said, … [Read more...]

Orthodox bishop on hot spot

When an Orthodox bishop enters a sanctuary, he is traditionally greeted with the following words chanted in Greek -- "eis polla eti, despota."In English this means, "Many years to you, Master." Witty bishops in the Orthodox Church in America have started using this sentiment as the punch line in a joke about the impact the episcopate can have on their egos."What happens to a guy?", said Bishop Jonah, during the church's All American Council in Pittsburgh. "You put him on a stand in the middle of … [Read more...]

Hiding behind altars

If you want to cause trouble for American bishops, stick them in a vise between Rome and the armies of dissenters employed on Catholic campuses.But the bishops had to vote on Ex Corde Ecclesiae ("From the Heart of the Church"). After all, they had been arguing about this papal document throughout the 1990s, trying to square the doctrinal vision of Pope John Paul II with their American reality. Rome said their first response was too weak, when it came to insisting that Catholic schools remain … [Read more...]

Beyond Orthodox folk dancing

These were the sad, sobering conversations that priests have when no one else is listening.Father John Peck kept hearing other priests pour out their frustrations on the telephone. Some, like Peck, were part of the Orthodox Church in America, a church with Russian roots that has been rocked by years of high-level scandals. But others were active in churches with "old country" ties back to other Eastern Orthodox lands."These men really felt that their churches weren't getting anywhere," he said. … [Read more...]

Catholic South shall rise

Catholics in the urban Northeast are getting used to the headlines.Parishioners in East Harlem have decided to conduct a vigil in a beloved old sanctuary because church leaders plan to lock the doors -- forever. The Archdiocese of New York recently said it would close or merge 21 churches in order to gather more people in fewer pews to be served by a declining number of priests.A parishioner at Our Lady Queen of Angels told the New York Times: "People have been baptized here and married here, … [Read more...]

Cliffs notes for confession

It's time for the Catholic bishops to go to confession.It's time for all of the Catholic priests to go to confession.Actually, with Easter a few weeks away, this is a time when all Catholics are supposed to go to confession.But most of America's 65 million Catholics no longer know or no longer care that their church requires them to go to confession at least once a year in order to receive Holy Communion. Confession is especially important during this season of Lent.If bishops and priests want … [Read more...]

Those Anglican Hitlers in Africa

An Episcopal bishop could not find a more natural place to preach than on National Public Radio.Long ago, witty commentators called the Episcopal Church the "Republican Party at prayer." Today, "NPR at prayer" would be more like it.So Bishop Charles Bennison of Philadelphia picked a great place to air his views about current tensions between his church's hierarchy and Third World Anglicans, especially Africans. While it's true that African churches are much larger than the Episcopal Church, he … [Read more...]