Vatican Denies Bid to Keep Boston Catholic Churches Open

Religion News Service file photo courtesy of George Martell/RCAB

Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley on Sept. 2, 2009. Religion News Service file photo courtesy of George Martell/RCAB

Groups of Boston-area Catholics who have waged an eight-year battle to block the sale of parish buildings are running out of options as the Vatican has rejected their appeals.

In rulings dated March through May, Rome's Congregation for the Clergy upheld the Archdiocese of Boston's plans to convert six parish buildings from sacred to profane (non-church) use.

Now parishioners, including vigil keepers who've occupied two church buildings round-the-clock since a wave of parish closures began in 2004, must decide whether to appeal one more time to the Vatican's top court.

Cleveland Catholics ‘Anxious,' 'Edgy’ as Parish Re-openings Drag On

RNS photo by Gus Chan / The Plain Dealer

Phillis and Phillip Clipps pray during Mass at the Community of St. Peter in Cleveland. RNS photo by Gus Chan / The Plain Dealer

 It's been nearly a month since Bishop Richard Lennon announced he would reopen 12 closed churches, but so far no shuttered sanctuaries have been resurrected.

As they wait, parishioners from some of the moribund parishes have begun organizing committees in preparation for the reopenings, which the diocese says are in process, although there's no official timetable.

At St. Mary Catholic Church in suburban Bedford, parishioners have formed a parish council, a finance committee and a music committee. And they have tied blue and white bows and a "Welcome Home" sign on the front of their church.

"We've got our committees organized," said St. Mary parishioner Carol Szczepanik. "We're just waiting for the bishop."

More Churches Turning to High-Tech Outreach

Social media illustration, Adchariyaphoto /

Social media illustration, Adchariyaphoto /

Christ Fellowship exemplifies most of the latest ways churches dramatically extend their reach of church beyond any one time or local address. Such congregations signal "a willingness to meet new challenges," said Scott Thumma, of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. He's the author of a study by Faith Communities Today (FACT) of how churches, synagogues and mosques use the Internet and other technology.

FACT's national survey of 11,077 of the nation's 335,000 congregations, released in March, found seven in 10 U.S. congregations had websites, and four in 10 had Facebook pages by 2010, Thumma says.

Pastors and Congregants Wear Hoodies to Church

Image via The Faith Community of St. Sabina,

Image via The Faith Community of St. Sabina,

Christians and other people of good faith nationwide stood in solidarity with Trayvon Martin this weekend by wearing hooded sweartshirts — aka "hoodies"— to church.  

Monday marks the one-month anniversary of Trayvon's slaying in Sanford, Florida at the hands of neighborhood "watchman" Gregory Zimmerman, who shot and killed the 17-year-old African-American boy in “self defense” for “looking suspicious” while dressed in a hooded sweatshirt.

Trayvon was unarmed, carrying only a package of Skittles, an iced tea and his cell phone.

Last week, people across the nation began wearing hoodies to work, school, and community marches in response to Trayvon's slaying and the injustice of the kind of racial profiling that it would appear directly led to it. On Sunday, many churches took that vision a step further as pastors and congregants donned hoodies and wore them to church for what some congregations called "Hoodie Sunday."

Churches Lost $1.2 Billion in Recession

Collection plate and bible, Wellford Tiller,

Collection plate and bible, Wellford Tiller,

WASHINGTON--Even as membership remains relatively stable in U.S. churches, the effects of the recession have caused contributions to drop by $1.2 billion.

According to the 2012 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, the almost $29 billion contributed by church members represented a 2.2 percent decrease in terms of per capita giving.

The $1.2 billion decline in 2010 was nearly three times as large as the $431 million in losses reported in 2009, and "provides clear evidence of the impact of the deepening crises in the reporting period," the Yearbook's editor, the Rev. Eileen Lindner, wrote.

The Yearbook is produced annually by the National Council of Churches and is considered one of the most authoritative sources of church membership. The 2010 figures, released Tuesday (March 20), were collected from 228 U.S. denominations in 2011.

Sojourners' Statement on Obama Administration's Contraception Policy Change

The Obama Administration announced earlier today a change to its policy regarding conscience exemptions and contraception coverage for faith based organizations.

Sojourners released the following statement:

We applaud the Obama Administration’s decision to respond to the concerns of many in the faith community around respecting religious liberty. This compromise respects the conscience concerns of those persons and institutions opposed to the use of contraception while still allowing greater access to those services for women who seek it. Expanded access to contraception is important for women’s health and is a key part of our country’s efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies and thereby reduce abortions.

From Sex to Satan, Some Churches Will Try Anything

The Devil Inside movie poster.

The Devil Inside movie poster.

This is a touchy subject for me, as I am a strong advocate of bringing cultural criticism and dialogue into the church, and I’m equally supportive of churches having frank forums where they deal with issues of sex and sexuality. But there is a distinct, if not fine, line between stretching a church to be relevant and jumping on the latest trend simply to draw attention to yourself.

Yes, I know religious institutions are collectively flipping out about the decreasing number of attendees and increased number of church closures. The fact is that some churches will do the world more good once closed than they’re doing today. This is not to say they’re doing active harm (though I’m sure some are), but rather that the tireless, copious use of resources – both human and financial – to prop up dying institutions is to point to one’s self rather than toward God. We get hung up on the idea that the former is a necessary means to the latter end, but not necessarily. Like a fallow field, sometimes it’s best to take what is left, turn it into the ground and allow it to be reborn into something entirely new.

The Morning News: Friday, Dec. 2, 2011

Social Muddle: Business, Justice, and the Gospel are Already Social; Obama Refers to His Christian Faith During National Tree Lighting Ceremony; Fount of Blessing, Fount of Youth: Age and the American Church; One-Third of Shelter Residents Are Newly Homeless; U.S. Unemployment Rate Falls to Lowest Level in Nearly Three Years; Gingrich Says Poor Children Have No Work Habits; For Afghan Woman, Justice Runs Into Unforgiving Wall of Custom.

The Morning News: Thursday November 17, 2011

As Injured Vets Return Home, Churches Reach Out. Occupy Wall Street Gears Up For The Big Day. Faith Overtones In Occupy Protests But Leaders Wary. OpEd: How The First Amendment Got Hijacked. Religious Groups Offer Help To Evicted Protesters. OpEd: What Happens When A Seminary Is Occupied? Religious Voices Loud And Clear At Keystone XL Protests. Iowa Scientists Ask Candidates To Acknowledge Climate Change. And Below The Line: Portraits Of American Poverty.