N.O. church closings reflect a national trend

NEW ORLEANS-Archbishop Alfred Hughes’ decision in April to close 33 of what were once about 142 parishes in the Archdiocese of New Orleans was not only a concession to the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina. It also introduced New Orleans Catholics to a phenomenon communities in other parts of the country began seeing two decades ago. Middle-class Catholics’ migration to the suburbs and the shortage of priests long ago began forcing bishops elsewhere to close, merge or cluster churches and parishes, sometimes to public outcry that has strained relations between lay Catholics and the church’s institutional hierarchy. In some places, critics insist there is more than demographics and personnel in the mix: They allege that bishops sometimes close financially vibrant parishes to sell off property to cover sex-abuse settlements or general operating losses. The phenomenon now is so advanced that dioceses have acquired a good deal of experience developing new ways to manage parish life.

Obama’s pastor defends against an “attack on the black church”

WASHINGTON-The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor to presidential candidate Barack Obama, said Monday (April 28) that recent media focus on his sermons is an “attack on the black church.” Asked at a National Press Club appearance about why he was speaking out when it could be a detriment to Obama’s campaign, Wright framed the controversy within a wider context. “This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It has nothing to do with Senator Obama,” he said before a packed ballroom filled with media and ministers in town for a black church conference at Howard University School of Divinity. “It is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition.”

Obama’s pastor defends against an “attack on the black church”

c. 2008 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor to presidential candidate Barack Obama, said Monday (April 28) that recent media focus on his sermons is an “attack on the black church.” Asked at a National Press Club appearance about why he was speaking out when it could be a detriment to Obama’s campaign, Wright framed the controversy within a wider context. “This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It has nothing to do with Senator Obama,” he said before a packed ballroom filled with media and ministers in town for a black church conference at Howard University School of Divinity. “It is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition.” Until recently, Wright had sought to avoid the spotlight since television reports began airing segments of his sermons in which he referred to the government as the “U.S. of K.K.K. A.” and said “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Church closings in New Orleans reflect a national trend

c. 2008 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ Archbishop Alfred Hughes’ decision in April to close 33 of what were once about 142 parishes in the Archdiocese of New Orleans was not only a concession to the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina. It also introduced New Orleans Catholics and neighborhood activists to a wrenching phenomenon communities in other parts of the country began seeing two decades ago. Middle-class Catholics’ migration to the suburbs from inner cities and the shortage of priests long ago began forcing bishops elsewhere to close, merge or cluster beloved churches and parishes, sometimes to furious public outcry that has strained relations between lay Catholics and the church’s institutional hierarchy. In some places, critics insist there is more than demographics and personnel in the mix: They allege that bishops sometimes close financially vibrant parishes to sell off property to cover sex-abuse settlements or general operating losses.

The Wright Stuff

So we have Wright the thoughtful intellectual with Bill Moyers, Wright the passionate exponent of equality before the NAACP, and Wright the angry radical at the National Press Club. Inevitably, the last will be engraved as the real Wright, though I’m inclined to think that all of them are equally real.

Obama in (a different) church

Yesterday, as chapter 2 of the Jeremiah Wright Saga was getting under way, Barack Obama went to St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, a big urban enterprise presided over by Rev. M. Kent Millard. A few weeks ago, Rev. Millard preached on racial reconciliation–in the big friendly inclusive unthreatening white Midwestern Methodist mode.

Welcome to RNS’s New Website (phase one)

Today marks the launch of the first phase of Religion News Service’s newly designed website, featuring more free full-text content posted every day (in addition to summaries of other stories we’re transmitting, the full-text of which is available to subscribers). There are many new features coming soon, including a special subscriber area with access to all of our content, with RSS feeds for easy flowing of copy into print and web templates. And there are some elements to the site that are still “not ready for prime time,” but which will be soon. We look forward to your comments and ideas as this site continues to evolve over the next few weeks, and we hope that you enjoy greater free access to the output of RNS’ many fine editors, correspondents and columnists. Feel free to add a comment to this post, or drop me a line at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) //’;l[1]=’a’;l[2]=’/’;l[3]=”;l[27]='”‘;l[28]=’ 109′;l[29]=’ 111′;l[30]=’ 99′;l[31]=’ 46′;l[32]=’ 99′;l[33]=’ 108′;l[34]=’ 108′;l[35]=’ 97′;l[36]=’ 105′;l[37]=’ 100′;l[38]=’ 101′;l[39]=’ 109′;l[40]=’ 100′;l[41]=’ 105′;l[42]=’ 114′;l[43]=’ 103′;l[44]=’ 64′;l[45]=’ 100′;l[46]=’ 105′;l[47]=’ 118′;l[48]=’ 97′;l[49]=’ 100′;l[50]=’:’;l[51]=’o’;l[52]=’t’;l[53]=’l’;l[54]=’i’;l[55]=’a’;l[56]=’m’;l[57]='”‘;l[58]=’=’;l[59]=’f’;l[60]=’e’;l[61]=’r’;l[62]=’h’;l[63]=’a ‘;l[64]=’= 0; i=i-1){ if (l[i].substring(0, 1) == ‘ ‘) output += “&#”+unescape(l[i].substring(1))+”;”; else output += unescape(l[i]); } document.getElementById(‘eeEncEmail_gBiUnPYRAL’).innerHTML = output; //]]> .

He Keeps Going and Going and Going…

Rev. Wright continues to dominate the media cycle with remarks made to the National Press Club. Here is the video of Wright defending the infamous “9-11 were America’s chickens coming home to roost” line. Wright went on to say that the Black Church was really the victim of attacks directed at him. His remarks at the press club followed a speech in front of the NAACP where Wright rejected the notion that he was divisive.

Recalculating PA

CNN has recalculated its exit poll for Pennsylvania, with the result that the Jewish vote turns out to be more pro-Clinton than it originally seemed: 62 percent to 38 percent (61 percent to 39 percent for white Jews). That’s a little bigger margin than for white Protestants (59 percent to 41 percent) and a good deal smaller than for white Catholics (72 percent to 28 percent). For a discussion of the Jewish vote in PA, see here.

The Very Reverend David O’Connell

WASHINGTON-Pope Benedict XVI’s address to Catholic educators on
Thursday (April 17) has become one of the most anticipated moments of
his first U.S. trip as pontiff. Already there is debate over how strict Benedict-himself a former
university professor-should be in insisting that Catholic scholars
and educators toe the line on church teachings. As president of Catholic University, which was founded by the U.S.
bishops, the Very Rev. David O’Connell offers special insight into the
address. Not only is he a Catholic educator, but he helped draw up
talking points for Benedict’s address. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Q: Some have suggested Pope Benedict may use his speech before
Catholic educators to read them the riot act.