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...]

A social media Reformation?

As every avid Twitter user knows, there are only 140 characters in a "tweet" and that includes the empty spaces.The bishops gathered at the ancient Council of Nicea didn't face that kind of communications challenge and, thus, produced an old-fashioned creed that in English is at least 1,161 characters long.No wonder so many of the gray-haired administrators in black suits in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops struggle with life online. It's hard to take seriously the frivolous-sounding … [Read more...]

Hemlock, health care and Catholic choices

The "Your Life, Your Choices" booklet didn't cause trouble at the Department of Veterans Affairs until late in President George W. Bush's second term.That's when critics spotted an odd detail in this guide for end-of-life medical decisions. It urged aging veterans to seek expert advice from one group -- Compassion & Choices. It helps to know that this organization was created in 2005 through the merger of two groups, Compassion in Dying and End-of-Life Choices and that, until 2003, … [Read more...]

Catholic pain in health-care fight

In Catholic debates, it always helps to be able to quote the official Catechism of the Catholic Church.Consider, for example, this reference to health care in its chapter on the biblical instruction, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.""Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God," notes the catechism. "Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and … [Read more...]

That other speech at Notre Dame

It was hard to ignore the papal bull condemning the slave trade, which was read to American Catholic leaders gathered in Baltimore in 1839.Pope Gregory XVI proclaimed that "no one in the future dare to vex anyone, despoil him of his possessions, reduce to servitude, or lend aid and favor to those who give themselves up to these practices, or exercise that inhuman traffic by which the Blacks, as if they were not men but rather animals, having been brought into servitude, in no matter what way, … [Read more...]

B16 challenges his bishops

The headlines and dramatic photos rush by during a papal visit, framing the sound bites that journalists uncover in stacks of Vatican speech texts.So Pope Benedict XVI visited the White House and proclaimed "God bless America!" Then he noted that, in this culture of radical individualism, "Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility."The former theology professor, speaking to Catholic college leaders, enthusiastically embraced academic freedom. Then he stressed that … [Read more...]


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