Signs of the Times

Seventy Percent of Latinos Identify as Catholic, Says Survey

A new national survey reports that 70 percent of the Latino population in the United States identify themselves as Catholic and 22 percent consider themselves Protestant. Forty-five percent of the respondents said they attended church services at least once a week.

The survey also showed a drop-off in the percentage of Latino Catholics with each generation born in the United States. Seventy-four percent of foreign-born Latinos identify themselves as Catholic; 66 percent of U.S.-born Latinos who have at least one parent born abroad identify themselves as Catholic; and 59 percent of third or later generations identify as Catholic. The respective numbers for Protestants are 18 percent, 25 percent and 32 percent.


Other survey findings include:

• 43 percent of all respondents who attend religious services go primarily to Spanish services, 27 percent primarily to English services and 30 percent listed bilingual.

• 49 percent of the Catholics feel that women should be ordained, while 23 percent believe they should not.

• 74 percent of all respondents believe that the church should provide assistance to illegal immigrants, even if the assistance is illegal.

The survey was done by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, a California-based think tank, as part of the Hispanic Church in American Public Life Project. The Hispanic project is a three-year ecumenical research program funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Vatican Says Spanish Theologian Agrees to Revise Theology Books

A Spanish theologian has agreed to a Vatican demand that he revise several of his books on moral theology in order to emphasize the Catholic Church’s official position on contraception, homosexuality, masturbation, abortion and other issues. The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a notification on May 15 saying that, in several works by Marciano Vidal, C.SS.R., a professor at Madrid’s Higher Institute of Moral Sciences, “an insufficient role is given to tradition and the magisterium’s moral teaching.”

For example, the congregation said, while Father Vidal teaches that artificial contraception and sterilization are not morally licit means of birth control, they can be morally acceptable “in situations of particular gravity” or when the intention is “to achieve a human good in a responsible way.” “Both these positions are contrary to the teaching of the church,” the congregation said.

Regarding masturbation, the Vatican said, Father Vidal wrote that the personal condition and circumstances of an individual must be taken into account when making a moral judgment of the action. “Not every act of masturbation is an ‘objectively grave matter,”’ the priest wrote. The congregation said, “In this view, the judgment of Catholic moral teaching, according to which acts of autoeroticism are objectively intrinsically evil, would not be correct.”

Father Vidal, the Vatican said, has taught that while the church’s teaching on homosexuality has “a certain coherence,” it does not have “an adequate biblical foundation” and should not be so categorical. “For the person who is irreversibly homosexual, a coherent Christian commitment does not necessarily lead to the rigid morality of either becoming heterosexual or total abstinence,” the priest wrote. The doctrinal congregation said, “These positions are incompatible with Catholic doctrine, according to which there is a precise and well-founded evaluation of the objective morality of sexual relations between persons of the same sex.”

The congregation said its four-year investigation and the notification do not reflect a judgment on Father Vidal or his ministry, but only on three of his books, which are used widely in courses on moral theology in Spanish-speaking countries and have been translated into Italian.

Vatican Document Undermines Vatican II, Says ICEL Chairman

A new document setting rules for translating the liturgy threatens to undermine the values of the Second Vatican Council, said the chairman of the English-speaking bishops’ commission on liturgy. Bishop Maurice Taylor of Galloway, Scotland, chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, said the Vatican instruction appears to centralize authority and remove it from the local bishops. Responding to publication of Liturgiam Authenticam (The Authentic Liturgy) by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, he said it “seems to go against some of the principal values that were stated in the Second Vatican Council, notably the principle of subsidiarity—that decisions should be taken not at the top, but at the lowest possible level.”

“It also goes against the principle of collegiality—the principle that bishops should be given certain authority and that all decisions should not be taken by Rome,” he said. “There is also the question of trust. These three values of Vatican II are difficult to reconcile with the centralizing tendency of this document.”

Bishop Taylor criticized the lack of consultation by the Vatican prior to the publication of Liturgiam Authenticam. “The bishops’ conferences didn’t have any opportunity to be consulted before this document was issued. They weren’t even informed that it was coming out. They weren’t given any prior information about it, so they couldn’t have any say on it,” he said.

He said bishops in the English-speaking countries should have been consulted about the proposed changes—such as the rendition of the opening words of the Credo as “I believe in one God,” instead of “We believe.” Bishop Taylor said English-speaking congregations might find it difficult to get used to responding “And with your spirit”—a literal translation of Et cum spiritu tuo—rather than the current usage, “And also with you.”

Ecology, Liturgy, Doctrine, Ethics, Refugees on Bishops’ Agenda

Global warming, the Middle East crisis and U.S. refugee policy are among issues the U.S. Catholic bishops will face at their June national meeting. They also will be asked to approve documents on questions ranging from ethics in health care to Catholic eucharistic teaching, from liturgical norms to how theologians are authorized to teach in Catholic colleges. The bishops will meet on June 14-16 in Atlanta. It will be their last meeting as the National Conference of Catholic Bishops-U.S. Catholic Conference. Under new statutes, as of July 1 the N.C.C.B.-U.S.C.C. will be combined into one conference, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, or U.S.C.C.B.

Among the June meeting’s specific “action items,” or documents requiring a vote to approve or reject, are three dealing with social justice issues:

• “Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good” is a statement that seeks to place the substantial evidence of human-caused global warming and its harmful effects within a context of responsible stewardship of creation. It says the common good of all and the need for solidarity with the poor require a public dialogue that gets beyond current ideological polarization to a prudent, constructive response to the challenges posed by global warming.

• “Renewing U.S. Leadership in Refugee Protection” looks back on the extensive U.S. involvement over the past 50 years in aiding refugees abroad and resettling them in the United States. It says the country’s global leadership in that field has declined significantly in the past decade. It calls for a new American commitment to the generosity and ideals that once made it a leader in welcoming and aiding the world’s refugees.

• A “Resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian Crisis” calls on Israel to end its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and denounces “the failure on the part of Palestinian authorities” to forestall and punish the ongoing anti-Israeli violence and terrorism of its people. “Nonviolence, dialogue and negotiation are the only ways forward,” it says. It expresses particular concern that the renewed violence threatens “the future of a living Christian presence in the Holy Land.”

The bishops will face at least five proposals aimed at various aspects of internal church life in the United States. In response to studies indicating that many Catholics are confused about the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, there is a proposed pastoral statement on the topic in the form of 15 basic questions and answers.

To address the growing phenomenon of diverse collaborative associations or partnerships of Catholic and non-Catholic health care institutions, the bishops are expected to amend the text of their 1995 Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. The proposed revisions are aimed at presenting a clearer expression of the Catholic moral principle prohibiting “immediate material cooperation in actions that are intrinsically immoral, such as abortion, euthanasia and direct sterilization.”

On the liturgical front the bishops face two action items, both in response to the issuance of a new General Instruction of the Roman Missal by the Holy See last year. The bishops will discuss and vote on a revised version of the 1984 U.S. directory for reception of Communion under both kinds. Amendments will also be offered to the general instruction’s appendix for the United States, approved by the bishops in 1995 and currently awaiting confirmation in Rome as part of the proposed new Sacramentary for use in the United States.

One proposed amendment would drop a 1995 decision to allow the option of moving the exchange of peace to immediately before the preparation of the gifts. Another would request special Vatican permission to continue the U.S. option of using the Apostles’ Creed as a profession of faith at Masses with children and on Sundays of the Easter season.

On Catholic higher education, the bishops will be asked to approve guidelines on conferring, withholding or withdrawing the mandatum, or ecclesiastical mandate to teach, that church law requires Catholic theologians to have from the local bishop in order to teach in Catholic colleges and universities.

From CNS, staff and other sources.

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