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Bishop of Pittsburgh Opens Churches to Voters on Monday PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 31 October 2008 13:32
The Bishop of Pittsburgh is planning to open local Catholic churches (some around the clock) to voters on Monday so that they can prayerfully discern how they should vote.

What a wonderful idea. I hope that more bishops do the same.
Catholicism: Northern No Longer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 31 October 2008 13:31
John Allen's Friday piece is interesting, as always. (My question: how does he manage to do all those interviews, write all those articles and books, and prepare all those speeches? I'm tired just contemplating it.)

Although his article is mostly about the evolution of Liberation Theology, I want to focus right now on his observation about global Catholicism.

"There are now local churches in every part of the world, and the hierarchy is being transformed by members from Africa, Asia and Latin America," George said during a conference in Chicago sponsored by the Catholic Theological Union and DePaul University. "What was once known as the 'Third World' is now a source of life and renewal for the church elsewhere."

Catholic demography certainly bears George out. In 1900, just twenty-five percent of the 266 million Catholics in the world lived in Africa, Asia and Latin America; by 2000, sixty-six percent of 1.1 billion Catholics lived in the global South, and by 2050, the Southern share is projected to be seventy-five percent, or three-quarters of all the Catholics on the planet. That's perhaps the most rapid, most sweeping, transformation of the Catholic population in more than 2,000 years of history.

I posted this amazing graph a year ago. It deals with Christianity as a whole, not just Catholicism but you see exactly the same picture. And two things that particularly struck me:

One: The only other time that Christianity went through a global shift this dramatic was in the 1st century when the Church moved from 100% southern to 60% southern in a century as she expanded throughout the ancient world. Note that the majority of Christians in the world were in the global south until the 10th century.

Two: The absolute nadir of southern Christianity occurred during one of the most traumatic centuries for northern Christianity. The 16th century was the only time in history when 90+ of all Christians on the planet were European. The century of the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Reformation and Trent and religious war between Catholics and Protestants. In historical terms, it was a blip because the Catholic missionary movement that arose from the Catholic Reformation began to change that - as the modest rise in southern Christianity that follows shows.

(By the way, the first 18 centuries of Christian missionary work was overwhelmingly Catholic (and Orthodox). Protestants didn't really start to engage in it in a major way till the late 19th century. HIstorically, Protestant missionary work is an anomaly.)

But the image of Catholicism as overwhelmingly, profoundly, and intrinsically northern and European in its very marrow that underlies so many of our current conversations is just wrong. It is, in the fullest sense, parochial.

Catholicism wasn't a northern faith in its first century. It is not a northern faith now. And all the indicators are that we have come full circle and that the 3rd millennium of Christian history is going to be once again dominated by the global south. None of us knows exactly what that will mean, of course. It will take centuries for the full impact to be felt just as it took centuries for medieval Christendom to rise from the ruins of the ancient world and the ravages of pagan invaders.

I am not saying that the European heritage of the Church will, much less, should be rejected or silenced. It will continue to inform and enrich a truly global Catholicism, as it should and must, but it will now be part of a global chorus as African, Asian, and Latin Catholicism take their rightful places. Before the rise of Islam, African Christianity was one of the the great glories of the Church. It is time it was restored.

So Allen's article about 2009 being the "Year of Africa".

"The explosion of Catholicism in sub-Saharan Africa during the 20th century ranks among the greatest missionary success stories in church history. From a Catholic population of 1.9 million in 1900, the total for sub-Saharan African mushroomed to 139 million in 2000, a staggering growth rate of 6,70 percent. Moreover, almost half of the adult baptisms in global Catholicism occur in Africa, meaning that the growth of the church has been driven not merely by overall demographic trends but also by success in attracting new converts.

By 2050, three African nations will rank among the ten largest Catholic countries on earth: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (97 million Catholics), Uganda (56 million) and Nigeria (47 million). The traditional Catholic powerhouses of Spain and Poland, meanwhile, are projected to drop off the list.

Vocations are also booming. Bigard Memorial Seminary in southeastern Nigeria, with an enrollment of over 1,100, is said to be the largest Catholic seminary in the world. Its student population by itself is roughly one-fifth the total number of seminarians currently preparing for the priesthood in the United States. Yet despite this phenomenal harvest, there is no priest surplus in Africa, in large part because Africans are being baptized even more rapidly than they’re being ordained.

The focus on Africa throughout 2009 should thus offer a striking contrast to Western perceptions of contraction and decline in the church, because that is not necessarily the global story."

42 years from now, only 25% of Catholics will probably be northern: European, North American.

But the reality is in our midst today.

The Catholic Witness Protection Program PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 31 October 2008 10:17

Boston's Cardinal O'Malley on lapsed Catholics:

The cardinal said catechists need to welcome home inactive Catholics who have stormed off, dozed off or fallen through the cracks.

There are 17 million people in the witness protection program of the Catholic Church,” he said.

Now that's a line worth stealing.
Ms. Smith Votes in Colorado Springs PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 30 October 2008 14:40
I just voted.

After waiting in line for 1 1/4 hour with all the other early birds. One of the officials told me that it would be like this through Friday (the last day of early voting). Stood in line behind a woman who goes to my parish and who cheerily urged me to vote for a specific candidate. Soldiers (men and women) in flight suits and camouflage are a common sight here and so they were in line. Now that I think about it, I hardly ever see someone in the standard dress uniform.

Our county is famous for its conservatism so I imagine that the majority in line with me were McCain voters. How the rest of the state goes is the question.

Even though I'm up to my eyeballs, I couldn't skip voting, especially when I'm living in one of the infamous "battleground" states. You never felt such urgency in Washington state. You always knew who would win.

And despite my work haze, I couldn't help but be moved by the sight of all the careful organization and clerks working so hard to make sure that I had my chance to make my mark. And at the sight of several hundred people lined up on a Thursday morning to exercise their civic right. It was a little "Mr Smith Goes to Washington" moment.

For all the relentless craziness of the preceding months, I was moved, proud, and honored to be standing in that line.
100,000 baptized in LA in 2007 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 17:21
I'm having one of those high anxiety moments as I begin preparing for a major presentation in the Archdiocese of LA next week. Not enough time at home between gigs and so much to do! Your prayers would help immensely!

In the midst of my research, I came across this startling figure via the Tidings:

"The 2008 edition of The Official Catholic Directory notes the 100,604 people baptized in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2007 included 95,408 infant Baptisms, 3,511 minor age Baptisms, and 1,685 adult Baptisms."

100,604 Baptisms exceed the total Catholic population of some 50 Arch/Dioceses across the country. This number also exceeds the total Catholic population of every one of the Eastern Rite Catholic Dioceses in our country. Put another way, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in a sense baptized "a new Diocese of Catholics into the Church last year."


--Very soon, Catholics will comprise 50 percent of the total population in our three Counties: Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles. And in a few years, Catholics will be a significant majority of the population.

"---Our great challenge is to not only baptize so many new members, but to make certain that they are properly evangelized and catechized so that their Catholic Faith underpins their daily lives."

Aye, there's the rub . . .

And I would note that 1,6oo adult baptisms is pretty small for a diocese of over 4 million.

But note: This is nearly 4 x the number baptized in the second largest archdiocese of the country:

---The Archdiocese of New York: a total Catholic population of 2,554,454, and 27,011 Baptisms.

and nearly 3X as many as were baptized in the third largest archdiocese:

---The Archdiocese of Chicago: a total Catholic population of 2,341,000, and 38,533 Baptisms.

Obviously, there are a lot more children being born to Catholic families in LA. Makes you wonder what percentage of those baptized are non-Anglo?
Refuse to Choose II PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 12:30

Back in February, 200

7, when the film Amazing Grace came out, I blogged on a group of Christian activists who achieved the unthinkable: the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.

Compared to the abolition of slavery - an institution as old as human culture and part of nearly every civilization in history - overturning Roe v. Wade and a mere 35 years of judicial activism is relatively simple. We could learn alot from the "Clapham Sect" a group of faith-driven Christian Activists who changed the course of Britain's history.

As I wrote then:

I just returned from seeing the film Amazing Grace about the life of William Wilberforce. It is not exactly brilliant movie making but it is very solid with good performances, a very careful period look, and a compelling story. Well worth a trip to the movies. I could do without the bagpipe version of Amazing Grace at the end - but oh well.

But the story of the impact that a small group of highly committed lay Christians at the end of the 18th and first decades of the 19th century had upon their time is deeply inspiring. At the center of this movement was a gathering of like minded Anglicans, Quakers, and evangelicals whose primary goal was the abolition of slavery in the British empire.




















(The picture is that of the famous ceramic Wedgewood anti-slavery badge "Am I not a Man and a Brother?")

In their spare time, they tackled bull fighting and bear baiting, prison reform, the abolition of the death penalty, factory working condition, amd educational reform. They founded schools, mission societies, the Foreign Bible society and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Wilberforce supported the end of anti-Catholic penalties, the so-called "Catholic Emancipation" in 1829.

And eventually in 1833, they did suceed in ending slavery throughout the British empire. Slavery would be abolished, but the planters would be heavily compensated. "Thank God', said Wilberforce, 'that I have lived to witness a day in which England is willing to give twenty millions sterling for the Abolition of Slavery". Three days later, on 29 July 1833, he died. Wilberforce had been fighting slavery for 46 years. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

The Christian History Institute has an interesting brochure on the "Clapham Sect" to which Wilberforce belonged. At the end, the author lists a dozen characteristics of the approach of the Clapham group to achieving significant societal change as disciples.

  1. Set clear and specific goals
  2. Researched carefully to produce reliable and irrefutable evidence
  3. Built a committed support community. The battle could not be carried on alone.
  4. Refused to accept setbacks as final defeats
  5. Committed to the struggle for the long haul, even if it took decades.
  6. Focused on issues, not allowing opponents' vicious attacks on their person to distract them, or provoke them into similar response.
  7. Empathized with opponents' position so that meaningful interaction could take place.
  8. Accepted incremental gains when everything could not be achieved at once.
  9. Cultivated grassroots support when rebuffed by those in power.
  10. Transcended a single issue mentality by addressing issues as part of overall moral climate.
  11. Worked through recognized channels without resort to dirty tactics or violence.
  12. Proceeded with a sense of mission and conviction that God would providentially guide if they were truly acting in his service.
I find several of these characteristics particularly compelling in light of our work at the Institute.

What do you think?
Act to End Violence in India PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 10:31
Mobs of Indians, spurred on by Hindu extremists, during the past eight weeks have torched an estimated 4,000 homes as well as churches, convents, and other church institutions, attacking, raping and killing Christians. An estimated 50,000 have fled to forests in rural provinces. At least two dozen people have been reported killed in the very poor Kandhamal district alone. Some who fled are living in a dozen relief camps set up by the government. Some, like the girl pictured in this post, have suffered burns and other injuries in the attacks.

Local observers say the government’s response to the violence has been woefully inadequate and Christians remain at the mercy of the mobs.

in an article posted by NCR,
Father John Fernandes, professor of Christian Studies at Mangalore University in Karnataka, told UCA New service that the anti-Christian incidents are part of "planned strategies" to garner votes for the 2009 election. "In terms of votes Christians are insignificant, but for uniting Hindus, the hate campaign is significant for them," the priest was quoted as saying last month.

He added he regretted that a polarizing "success" in one place motivates Hindu radicals to test the strategy in other areas.
Meanwhile, Christians have held rallies across India to protest the violence. In the port city of Mangalore in Western India, Christians, Hindus and Muslims organized a hunger strike and formed a human chain.
While it is encouraging that people of good will from these three religious groups are speaking out, we need to make our voices heard, as well. As Fr. Fernandes points out, if such violence enables a group to grow more powerfully politically in an area of India where as much as 20% of the populace is Christian, similar tactics will be used in other states where Christians are a smaller minority.

Please consider sending an e-mail to various political leaders in India. A sample letter and some e-mail addresses are provided here [N.B. there is a typo in President Patel's e-mail: the correct address is " This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "]. In addition, please pray diligently for an end to the violence going on now in India, and for the thousands of Christians who are living in fear, especially those who have lost loved ones, been raped, or have seen their homes and businesses burned.
Why Democrats Are Blue PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 09:18
Very interesting.

Check out New Catholic Politics, a blog by Mark Stricherz, the author of Why Democrats are Blue:Secular Liberalism and the Decline of the People's Party.

Acording to his Amazon blurb, Stricherz covers in great detail the behind the scenes political maneuvering "through which secular, educated elites, using a commission created at the 1968 convention in Chicago and later chaired by Senator George McGovern, took the Democratic Party away from working class and religious Democrats. This quiet revolution helps explain why six of the last nine Democratic presidential candidates have lost."

Amy Welborn is reading the book and has a long post on it here.

Although I am not a political junkie and don't often have the time to read anything that isn't immediately work-related, I am intrigued by how much behind the scenes maneuvering by people whose names most of us will never know, so often determines the candidates who are presented to us. And it was that sort of fundamental slogging in the trenches that I was referring to in my post below "Refuse to Choose".

We need an army of exceedingly tenacious and shrewd, well-formed pro-life Catholic politicos who are willing to pay their dues at the local level and earn the right to change the course of their parties where life is concerned. We need a new intentional national coalition, a coalition that transcends party, of politicians, constitutional lawyers, bio-ethicists, medical experts and practitioners, community activists, social entrepreneurs, journalists, and scholars who collaborate together - over the long haul - to recapture the power and influence centers of our nation for life.

That is what I meant by "refusing to choose", not freezing, ballot in hand, at the entrance of the voting booth because you can't stomach either of the two options before you. Options already determined by events that occurred decades before in some smoke-filled back room.

If every bishop in the US, if every bishop in the world, spoke loudly and unilaterally for life, it would not accomplish what is needed. This is our job. It is one of those quintessentially lay tasks that cannot never be done by the clergy.

It is something only the laity can do and yet it would have an immense impact on the life of the Church. It would be one of the great lay apostolates of the 21st century.
A Note from the Synod on the Bible PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 28 October 2008 14:07
John Allen reports on the results of the Synod on the Scriptures that just concluded in Rome. He notes several propositions that have to do with the laity and the Scriptures. In another vote of confidence in lay activity, the bishops also endorsed the practice of Bible reading in small Christian communities ...“
These small communities meet regularly around the Word of God, in order to share it among themselves, and they draw strength from it,” the bishops said in proposition 21. “The service of the laity who guide these communities must be esteemed and promoted, because they render a missionary service to which all the baptized are called,” the bishops said.

Concern for the laity even ran through the synod’s treatment of priestly formation. Proposition 32, dealing with educating future priests about the Bible, included the following recommendation: “Parallel to formation inside the seminary, future priests are also invited to take part in meetings with groups or associations of laity gathering around the Word of God. These meetings … favor in future ministers the experience and the taste for hearing what the Holy Spirit is arousing in believers gathering as the church, whether these gatherings are large or small.”
These are encouraging to me. First of all, disciples of Jesus naturally want to gather to share and reflect together on the scriptures which proclaim the activity of God in human history, particularly in the life of Jesus, the "Word made flesh." Such small group gatherings around the word deepen the faith of the participants, helps them to understand that to which the Word is calling them, and through mutual support can strengthen the will of those involved to actually conform themselves to the will of God.

Secondly, I am particularly excited that the Bishops recognize the need for seminarians to hear how the Word is heard by those to whom they will eventually be preaching. Far too often I have heard (and have been guilty of giving) homilies that were long on exegesis and short on connection to the life of the preacher or the Christian community gathered at worship! Hopefully hearing the questions raised by the laity, the challenges they face at work and at home, as well as their insights into the scriptures will form seminarians as better preachers. In addition, I would guess that groups of laity that gather regularly to pray over and study the scriptures are filled with intentional disciples, and these people may be instruments of God to inspire, challenge and edify those preparing to be ordained as servants of the common priesthood.
We Are All Missionaries PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 27 October 2008 12:07
I missed MIssion Sunday (October 19) because I was in another country and away from cell and internet access.

But I love this Mission Sunday poster:

Preach it.
Refuse to Choose PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 27 October 2008 06:11
I was quite struck by John Allen's column this past Friday on the election about the political disenfranchising of so many Catholics in this country because the platforms of both parties make us feel that we must always choose between the lesser of two evils. I, for one, certainly fall into that camp. Here's Allen:

"Here's a thought exercise: In the abstract, what would the political fortunes be in America of a candidate who actually embodied the full range of Catholic social concerns? What would happen if a serious candidate came along who's pro-life, pro-family, anti-war, pro-immigrant, anti-death penalty, pro-sustainable development, and a multi-lateralist in foreign policy concerned with religious freedom and a robust role for believers in public life? My hunch is that such a candidate could be attractive to a broad cross-section of moderates and independents. The machinery of both major parties, however, appears almost designed to prevent such a person from ever being nominated.

After Nov. 4, Catholics on the winning side will start scrambling for various forms of access and patronage from the new administration, while those who backed the loser will start organizing the opposition. In other words, both the victors and the vanquished in American politics know exactly what to do once the smoke from battle clears.

For disenfranchised Catholics, the road ahead is far less clear. For what it's worth, my own reading is that it's no use trying an end-run around the two-party system. If a holistic Catholic sensibility is ever going to cut ice in American politics, it will have to come from one of the two parties being hijacked from within -- the way Reagan moved the goalposts for the Republicans, or Clinton for the Democrats. (Or, if you prefer an overseas example, the way that Blair built "New Labour.")

In that light, it would be an interesting experiment if a network of Catholic policy groups, activists, and intellectuals were to take shape once election season is over, devoted to laying the groundwork for influencing both parties from within. I'm talking not just about making compelling arguments, but doing the hard nuts-and-bolts work of political organizing, including identifying potential candidates and making them battle-ready.

All that would, of course, require time, money, and expertise, and I'm not sure where any of it might come from. In the absence of such an effort, however, many of the best and brightest in American Catholicism are doomed to feel perpetually alienated, forever choosing between the lesser of two evils. While no political system is ever perfect, the question these Catholics are asking is: Can't we do better than this?"

What Allen describes above could only be done by a generation of exceedingly sharp, tough, well-formed, well-networked, and politically creative lay Catholics who can see and move beyond the old shibboleths of liberal and conservative politics in this country. Lay Catholics who are willing to forgo the immediate rewards of the existing system in order to force the parties to change in a direction that supports life across the board. Who recognize that a true culture of life cannot be built in this country without the significant participation of both parties.

Now that would be a work worthy of our most gifted and gutsy people, who simply refuse to sell out.

In the mid 90's, when the Seattle Mariners won, miraculously, their first chance to be in the play-offs - the fan mantra was "Refuse to Lose".*

What if American Catholics simply "refused to choose" between life issues? We are the biggest single religious bloc by far - the 70 million strong political gorilla - and there are many other Christians and people of faith and good will who would be intrigued by and follow our lead. Neither party can win or govern without substantial Catholic support and participation. Why are we behaving as though we simply have to accept the stark, mutually exclusive, alternatives that the current party system spits out at us?

What if we simply Refused to Choose?

*For the baseball-inclined, here"s the rest of the story:

1995: "Refuse to Lose"
1995 was the season that saved baseball in Seattle. Capping a miraculous September surge that saw them end the season tied with Anaheim, the Mariners earned the first post-season berth in franchise history by thumping the Angels in a one-game playoff at the Kingdome. After dropping the opening two stanzas of their five-game ALDS matchup with the Yankees, the Mariners pulled off three straight dramatic wins. In the classic Game Five the M's rallied from an early deficit against Yanks starter David Cone to force extra innings before Martinez brought them back one last time on a two-run 11th inning double, inspiring pandemonium at the Kingdome. Seattle eventually succumbed to a heavily favored Cleveland juggernaut in the League Championship series, but not before throwing a scare into the Indians by extending them to six hard-fought games
Professional Soccer Player Answers the Call to Priesthood PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 26 October 2008 23:05
Back in golden Colorado. Great trip to Chicago and mucb enthusiasm.

There will be more as I'm home all week (imagine!) but have lots of work to do.

Meanwhile, take a look at this fascinating story of Chase, a professional soccer player who is now a seminarian at Mount St. Mary's. Via ESPN.

See You Later PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Friday, 24 October 2008 05:36
I'm sitting next to Sherry in the Colorado Springs airport, awaiting my plane to Chicago - not to be confused with Sherry's plane to Chicago. I'm on United this morning, she's on Northwest. Like the POTUS and V.POTUS (president and vice president of the U.S.) we never fly on the same plane.

Contrary to vicious rumors, I have NOT taken out a large life insurance policy on Sherry.

I hope to blog when I return to Tucson after the Gurnee Called & GIfted.
Election Coverage PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 October 2008 20:52

Written by Joe Waters

While I have been mostly edified by the statements several bishops (1 in 4 according to Rocco Palmo) have made on abortion in the run-up to the election, I am reminded that they wouldn't have to so frantically remind us of our moral and political obligations every election year if we concentrated a fostering cultures of intentional discipleship in our parishes and dioceses all the time. Somehow I think intentional disciples with well-formed consciences can figure out how to vote the "Christian way" without as much difficultly as it seems to be for Catholics these days. Just a thought...

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