Signs of the Times

Study Finds Catholic Teens Less Religious Than Protestants

A wide study of U.S. teenagers has found that Catholic teens lag behind their Protestant counterparts on many measures of religious belief, experience and activity. Only 10 percent of Catholic teens, for example, said religion was extremely important in shaping their daily life, while 20 percent of mainline Protestant teens, 29 percent of conservative Protestant teens and 31 percent of black Protestant teens felt that way. Forty percent of Catholic teens said they had never attended any parish-based religious education program, compared to 19 percent of mainline Protestants, 13 percent of conservative Protestants and 12 percent of black Protestants. Mainline refers to generally ecumenical and liberal denominations, while conservative refers to evangelical, Pentecostal and fundamentalist denominations. Forty percent of Catholic teens said they attended religious services once a week or more - just slightly below black and mainline Protestant teens, but 15 percent lower than teens in conservative congregations. But when it came to attending religious services more than once a week, only 6 percent of Catholic teens said they did so; among Protestant teens the numbers were significantly higher13 percent for mainline, 24 percent for black and 29 percent for conservative. Highlights of the findings were published in the fall issue of the CARA Report, a quarterly publication of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, at Georgetown University.

Election Results

Virginians elected Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine governor in elections Nov. 8. Kaine, a Democrat, is the first Catholic elected governor in the state’s history. Only 15 percent of Virginia’s population is Catholic.


In other election results, Texans voted to ban same-sex marriage. Voters approved the amendment by a 3-to-1 margin, making Texas the 18th state that by its constitution defines marriage as a heterosexual union or declares same-sex marriages invalid.

Only a few state referendum issues drew comment from local Catholic bishops. The bishops of Texas strongly supported the state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as the union only of a man and a woman. They also condemned unjust discrimination and said that homosexual persons are to be treated with respect and compassion.

In Maine voters backed a law prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians. Californians narrowly defeated a rule that parents must be notified before a minor can have an abortion.

Pope Calls World Intelligent Project

Pope Benedict XVI said that far from being a product of chance, the created world is an intelligent project that reflects a divine origin. The pope made the remarks during a general audience at the Vatican on Nov. 9, commenting on Psalm 136, which gives thanks for creation. The pope quoted St. Basil the Great, who in the fourth century warned that some people, fooled by the atheism that they carry inside them, imagine the universe deprived of direction and order, as if at the mercy of chance. Speaking extemporaneously to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square, the pope said St. Basil’s words had surprising relevance today. How many people are there today who, fooled by atheism, think and try to demonstrate that it would be scientific to think that everything is without direction and order, he said.

Irish Archbishop Pledges to Help Abuse Inquiry

Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has pledged the full cooperation of his archdiocese with a new government commission that will investigate how church and state authorities have handled complaints against diocesan clergy of sexual abuse of children. It is vitally important that the truth of what happened regarding abuse of children by priests is brought to light, said Archbishop Martin. We can only begin to fully address the issue of child abuse when we establish what happened in the past. Horrendous damage was done to people, compounded by inadequate responses. The archbishop said he hoped the work already done by the archdiocese in recent years, including the appointment of an independent consultant in 2004 to examine all files relating to complaints of child abuse in the diocese, will help the government commission establish the truth. He noted that the archdiocese has made copies of more than 22,000 documents for police to help investigations into complaints of child abuse by archdiocesan priests.

Bishops Warn Against Rumors About Visitation

In recent weeks two American bishops have written to their dioceses expressing their concern about rumors circulating regarding the Vatican-sponsored seminary visitation now in progress and a long-rumored document from the Congregation for Catholic Education about the admission of gay men as candidates for the priesthood. On Nov. 12, in a column in The Catholic Courier, Bishop Matthew H. Clark of Rochester, N.Y., wrote: Allow me to offer observations about some of the themes and concerns the confluence of these related but distinct elements have raised. I wish only to encourage all to be patient with the process of the visitation and fair in the reading of the rumored document, if and when it is published.

Bishop Clark noted the pain that has been caused by the rumors. He hoped that his comments would be helpful to homosexual priests who spend themselves each day in faithful, loving ministry to God’s holy people. We deeply value your ministry. He addressed himself also to gay young men who are considering a vocation to the priesthood. We try to treat all inquiries fairly. You will be no exception. Finally, he spoke to all who may have been confused or misled by premature and narrow reporting of the visitation and rumored document. It is always better to deal with fact than with rumor and half-truths.

On Oct. 20, Bishop William S. Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to his diocese of Spokane, Wash.: I want to make a comment on the hysteria created about a rumored document on homosexuality among seminarians and priests. The rumors have generated a tremendous amount of press, much of it quite negative. There probably will be a statement forthcoming, but from recent reports that appear to be accurate, the statement will be nuanced and balanced. There are many wonderful and excellent priests in the church who have a gay orientation, are chaste and celibate and very effective ministers of the Gospel. Witch hunts and gay bashing have no place in the church.

Report Names Violators of Religious Freedom

The U.S. State Department continued to designate Saudi Arabia, China and Cuba as countries of particular concern because of violations of religious freedom. In its annual report on international religious freedom, released on Nov. 8, Myanmar, Laos, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam ranked high on the list of countries that either control or are hostile toward religious practice. Belgium, France and Germany appeared on the list as governments that use legislation to brand minority religions as dangerous cults’ or sects.’ Freedom of religion does not exist in Saudi Arabia, said the report. Religious freedom is not recognized or protected under the country’s laws, and basic religious freedoms are denied to all but those who adhere to the state-sanctioned version of Sunni Islam.

French Bishops Blame Riots on Decision-Makers

France’s Catholic bishops warned government officials against hard-line solutions to the country’s rioting and placed some of the blame on them. Collective responsibility rests with the political and economic decision-makers, said the statement, signed by the bishops’ conference president, Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux. But the events of these days should also pose questions to us, the bishops said. Our choices, individually and collectively, concerning the organization of life in society can lead us to create or to remove situations of exclusion and ghettoization. The statement was issued on Nov. 9 at the close of the bishops’ plenary assembly in Lourdes, as France’s interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, authorized the expulsion of foreign-born citizens implicated in the two weeks of violence in Paris and other major French cities. It was the bishops’ second statement on the riots in four days.

Catholic Charities USA Raises Over $100 Million

Catholic Charities USA has raised $101 million for hurricane disaster relief and has already allocated more than $36 million to 58 local Catholic Charities agencies and other Catholic organizations. Across the country more than 80 local Catholic Charities agencies are assisting hurricane victims by providing food, financial aid, clothing, shelter, gas and retail-store cards and household goods; helping with medical and prescription needs; offering cleanup assistance; helping victims work with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials; and providing crisis counseling, case management, transportation, job placement and temporary and long-term housing. A recent round of funding, approved by Catholic Charities USA’s Disaster Response Advisory Committee, included a $25.6 million grant allocation to Catholic Charities of New Orleans to fund recovery work over the next two to three years. Working directly with parishes around the archdiocese, the New Orleans agency plans to continue its outreach to hurricane victims with the help of the Catholic Charities USA grant.

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