WBEZ | catholics 2013 http://www.wbez.org/tags/catholics-2013 Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago active in underground movement to ordain Catholic women priests http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-active-underground-movement-ordain-catholic-women-priests-106323 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMAG0113.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An engaged couple nestled together on a loveseat in the living room of Mary Grace Crowley-Koch&rsquo;s suburban home. They sat so close that their arms and legs touched.</p><p>&ldquo;Did somebody special introduce you to each other?&rdquo; asked Crowley-Koch.<br />&ldquo;It was a completely random encounter that just worked,&rdquo; said the bride-to-be, Carrie Werner.<br />&ldquo;It worked,&rdquo; echoed her future husband, Jeff Halter.<br />&ldquo;Stepped out in faith and got a wonderful surprise,&rdquo; Mary Grace said.<br />&ldquo;I think we just pulled each other&rsquo;s Lotto ticket, is what happened,&rdquo; Jeff said.</p><p>Mary Grace and her husband, Ron, sat across from the couple, who were looking for someone to officiate at their upcoming wedding.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, what we&rsquo;re going to do tonight is we&rsquo;re going to give you a booklet of options because we believe this is about your gift of love,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And so there are options for prayers, there are options for the readings, the vows, blessings and everything.&rdquo;</p><p>The marriage ceremony will resemble a Catholic service in all aspects except one important detail: One of the priests presiding will be a woman &hellip; Crowley-Koch.<br />&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s very sad the Catholic Church has not recognized the ministry and the gifts of women because Jesus did,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The Roman Catholic Church has said the ordination of women is not up for discussion. The church argues women can&rsquo;t be priests because Jesus chose men as his first apostles, so only men can validly be priests. <a href="http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0001.html">Pope John Paul II</a> officially declared the church doesn&#39;t have the power to ordain women.&nbsp;</p><p>But a growing number of women are pushing the issue through an&nbsp;<a href="http://romancatholicwomenpriests.org/">underground movemen</a>t.&nbsp;Last year marked the tenth anniversary of the first underground ordination. At that time, a male Catholic bishop surreptitiously ordained seven women &ndash; including one American &ndash; on a boat in the Danube River.<br /><br />Afterward, two of the women priests were secretly ordained as bishops. Those female bishops, in turn, have ordained more women as bishops and priests. So far, there are 73 American women in the priesthood. Chicago has been active in the effort, with three already ordained and another in the pipeline.<br /><br />All the male bishops involved in the ordinations have remained anonymous under threat of excommunication. But the women have been quite vocal and public, openly ordaining other women even though they face automatic excommunication. They&rsquo;re also speaking out and organizing protests, like a recent demonstration at Holy Name Cathedral seeking a greater voice for women.<br /><br />The women celebrate Mass, baptize babies and perform other official acts reserved for male priests, like hearing confession. The marriages they preside at aren&rsquo;t officially recognized by the Catholic Church, but they&rsquo;re legal in Illinois &ndash; the women priests belong to the Federation of Christian Ministries, which is recognized by the state. Like any other couples, the people they marry still have to obtain a civil wedding license.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s just so strange that a person&rsquo;s gender would be considered as a &lsquo;yes&rsquo; or a &lsquo;no&rsquo; whether you could offer comfort and support,&rdquo; Crowley-Cook said. Women priests often serve those who feel marginalized by the official church, she said, including couples like Carrie Werner and Jeff Halter. They are practicing Catholics but can&rsquo;t wed in the church because Jeff&rsquo;s first marriage was never officially annulled.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t want to just get a justice of the peace and feel disconnected,&rdquo; Jeff said.</p><p>That&rsquo;s why the couple sought out Crowley-Koch and her husband, who will perform the service together.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re still bringing our upbringings to the event, and it allows us to move forward,&rdquo; Jeff said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s also coming together with how society is today. It&rsquo;s still traditional and we still have those values, and you can&rsquo;t change what&rsquo;s inside, but it&rsquo;s bringing today into our situation.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Perfect, I agree,&rdquo; Carrie said.</p><p>Crowley-Koch felt the first stirrings of a call to the priesthood as far back as nursery school. She imitated a priest at Mass, and passed out white Necco candy wafers as a substitute for the communion host.</p><p>&ldquo;My mother had to tell me that I was not to continue to playing church at nursery school anymore because it was upsetting to some of the families,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So we just did it at home then. (Laughs.)&rdquo;</p><p>Her road to the priesthood was long and full of surprises. She spent 17 years as a Dominican sister, earning a master&rsquo;s degree in theology, and later served as a hospice chaplain.</p><p>&ldquo;Oftentimes I would hear confessions,&rdquo; Mary Grace said. &ldquo;They knew I was there for them. They felt comfortable telling me what was on their minds. It validated me because it was the people of God saying, &lsquo;Yes, we choose you.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Back in her living room with the engaged couple, Mary Grace shares the story of how she met her husband. At the time, she was still a Dominican sister and Ron was a Norbertine priest.</p><p>&ldquo;Down the line, one day Ron just said after working together for a couple of years, Ron said, &lsquo;I think I&rsquo;m falling in love with you.&rsquo; &ldquo;</p><p>Carrie Werner oohed in sympathy.</p><p>&ldquo;The hard thing for me was that I knew Ron was going to have to give up his priesthood,&rdquo; Mary Grace told the couple. &ldquo;And I wanted him to make really sure that was it, because if you love ministering to people and celebrating prayer and Eucharist for them, and to have that taken away from you just because you&rsquo;re getting married &hellip;&rdquo; Her voice trailed off.</p><p>She recalled the moment she and Ron had to face their parishioners with the news.</p><p>&ldquo;There was dead silence,&rdquo; Mary Grace said. &ldquo;We were planning to be ostracized but then all of sudden someone stood up and said, &lsquo;Well, Mary Grace and Ron, we can&rsquo;t thank you enough for all you&rsquo;ve done for us.&rsquo; And everyone applauded and that was the end of the meeting.&rdquo;</p><p>Crowley-Koch now offers Mass, often alongside her husband, once a month at their home. She said they&rsquo;re just following a tradition dating back to the earliest days of the church, when services in homes were the norm.</p><p>&ldquo;It was a very simple thing, and at a certain point in time, we&rsquo;ve added on and added on and made it more than Jesus ever had in his mind, I&rsquo;m sure. And by doing that and making rules as we went along that were never there from the very beginning, we&rsquo;ve eliminated half of the population.&rdquo;</p><p>Crowley-Koch said she doesn&rsquo;t think the clergy sex abuse scandal would have been covered up if women had been part of the hierarchy, and she believes that having women serve as priests is not just a matter of justice, but of creating balance as well.</p><p>&ldquo;Male and female he (God) created them,&rdquo; Mary Grace said. &ldquo;And when you&rsquo;re together as a couple, and when there are men and women working together on things, there is a balance there, and things come out much better than when one person or one gender makes all the decisions. So it&rsquo;s my hope we can find a balance in this world and in our church.&rdquo;</p><p>It would mark a momentous change if the new Pope Francis addresses Crowley-Koch&rsquo;s concerns. Many church observers say the Vatican will probably approve a married priesthood before it allows women to be ordained.</p><p><em>NOTE: Justin Mitchell and Jennifer Lacey contributed to this report. Greta Johnsen produced it.</em></p><p><br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 29 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-active-underground-movement-ordain-catholic-women-priests-106323 'Media nuns' assist Catholics in staying connected in a digital age http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/media-nuns-assist-catholics-staying-connected-digital-age-106328 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left;"><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left;"><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/star%20wars_1.jpg" style="height: 229px; width: 305px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: left;" title="Sister Helena comes face-to-face with Darth Vader on Hollywood Blvd. Sister Helena writes movie reviews for Catholic New World. (Courtesy of Sister Helena Burns)" />The sanctuary inside St. Mary Catholic Church in the village of Huntley echoed with the voices of more than 200 high school freshmen. They fidgeted as they waited for confirmation class to begin.</div></div></div></div></div></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">A poster for the movie <em>Warm Bodies</em> appeared on a large screen behind Sister Helena Burns. She asked the students if any of them have seen it, and some raise their hands.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;What happens when the two fall in love?&quot; she asked. &quot;The zombie guy and the human girl, what happens?&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">And yes, she was talking about a zombie movie.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;He starts to come back to life, right? His little heart starts beating. What else happens? Does it just stay between the two of them? It&rsquo;s just their love, and it&rsquo;s all closed off and private?&quot; Sister Helena asked.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Hands began to pop up around the room, and one student shouted out the answer Sister Helena wanted.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;Yes, the love spreads,&quot; Sister Helena said to the students. &quot;Two thumbs up! Wasn&rsquo;t it great?&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The self-dubbed &#39;media nun&#39; is teaching a class about theology of the body, the idea that the human body is a revelation of God.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Using popular movies as a way to communicate to teens is just one example of Sister Helena&#39;s media savvy. She also tweets, blogs, <a href="http://www.hellburns.blogspot.com/2013/03/brand-new-my-video-review-of-warm-bodies.html#.UVOBRjevlI4">writes movie reviews</a><em> </em>and is making a documentary film about her order&#39;s founder with Spirit Juice Studios.<br /><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>To get a sense of Sister Helena&#39;s social media presence, check out this sampling from Storify:&nbsp; </em><a href="http://sfy.co/gH2R">Sister Helena Burns, &#39;Media Nun&#39;</a></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">She&rsquo;s part of an international order of nuns called the Daughters of St. Paul. They claim they&rsquo;re the only order in the world whose sole mission is using media to &ldquo;communicate the gospel in a digital age.&rdquo; And at a time when studies show more and more people are feeling disconnected from institutional churches, the sisters may have found an unusual way to reach out.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The order was founded by Father James Alberione in 1915. He had a vision media would explode in the 20th century, and he should spread the gospel to as many people as possible using whatever technologies were available.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Back in those days, that was mostly newspapers and passing out pamphlets door-to-door. In 1932, the order opened the Pauline bookstores, which have locations across the country, including Chicago.</div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/choir_0.jpg" style="height: 211px; width: 310px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;" title="The Daughters of St. Paul Choir singing at a Christmas concert in Boston. The order has its own state of the art sound studio for recording and producing albums. (Courtesy of Sister Helena Burns)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Over the years, the stores have adopted new forms of media and technology as they&#39;ve come along.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Today, they&#39;re known as Pauline Books and Media.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">They&#39;ve expanded their technologies to include ebooks, smartphone apps and software, among others. Music from the Daughters of St. Paul choir can be found on YouTube and in iTunes.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Chicago order of the Daughters of St. Paul is located over its Pauline Books and Media store on North Michigan Avenue in the Loop.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Dressed in her navy blue veil and smock, Sister Helena greeted me warmly when I dropped by the store. It was early, so there weren&#39;t any customers browsing the religious books or trying to track down communion gifts yet. Sister Helena led me to the back of the store, where we took an elevator upstairs to the convent. The furnishings in the florescent-lit kitchen were spartan but comfortable.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Sister Helena entered the Daughters of St. Paul at 17, after finding an ad in <em>Catholic Digest.</em> The order&#39;s mission of spreading the gospel through media spoke to her immediately.</div><p>&ldquo;I felt, what better way could you bring God into somebody&rsquo;s heart and soul and mind, just directly through a book, a song, a magazine, a film,&rdquo; she said.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MEDIA LITERACY WORKSHOP 2.jpg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: left;" title="Sister Helena giving a talk on media literacy. The Daughters of St. Paul do various forms of outreach to teach others about using media responsibly. (Courtesy of Sister Helena Burns)" /></div><p>Sister Helena didn&rsquo;t always know she was going to be a nun. Growing up, she dreamt of working with animals, especially birds. But she also loved reading and writing short stories</p><p>&ldquo;I could see the influence for the good and the ill that media had on me, on my friends, and on society,&quot; she said. &quot;I thought, &lsquo;Wow, I would love to just get in there and affirm the good, and try to help people also reflect on their everyday media experiences.&#39;&quot;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">The Daughters of St. Paul don&rsquo;t just evangelize, they teach people to use media responsibly without allowing it to take over their lives. In addition to speaking to large groups like the confirmation class at St. Mary&#39;s, they also offer private sessions with families and individuals, or anyone who needs help balancing the media and technology.</div><p>Sister Helena told me about a woman whose granddaughter used to come over every day after school.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;&#39;Because,&#39; she said,&nbsp; &#39;Grandma, you look at me. I go to my house, my little brother&rsquo;s playing with his games, my mother&rsquo;s talking on her phone, my dad&rsquo;s at the computer.&#39; She said, &lsquo;I come into your house, Grandma, and you&rsquo;re at the computer, you shut it off.&#39;&rdquo;</div><p>In addition to working with teens and families, the order also uses media as a tool to recruit new sisters. A 2012 study from Georgetown University shows the number of nuns in the United States has dropped by two-thirds since the 1960s.</p><p>The Daughters of St. Paul hope to reverse that trend by reaching out to young women in their own language, social media.</p><p>That appealed to 30-year-old Danielle Lussier, who&rsquo;s entering the order this September. Like Sister Helena, Danielle never pictured herself as a nun.</p><p>&ldquo;They were other worldly, they were outside of my own worldview, totally, like, out of touch maybe? But also mysterious,&quot; she said.</p><p>Danielle studied photography and film in college, but she began to wonder if she was using her talents for the highest possible purpose. While on a religious retreat, she found her purpose in the Daughters of St. Paul.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/italy_0.jpg" style="float: right; height: 212px; width: 305px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px;" title="Sister Helena filming a scene on location in Italy. She's working with Spirit Juice Studios of Chicago on a film about Father James Alberione, who founded the Daughters of St. Paul. (Courtesy of Sister Helena Burns)" /></div><p>&ldquo;This is a means of reaching people where they are,&quot; Danielle said. &quot;This is the language of our culture.&rdquo;</p><p>Back at St. Mary Catholic Church, the nuns seem to be getting through. Fifteen-year-old Bailey said she&#39;s heard some &quot;boring&quot; speakers in confirmation class, but hearing a nun speak about a zombie movie caught her attention.</p><p>&ldquo;She&rsquo;s not just [living] this strict life, she can get out there and teach kids [in the way] we learn,&quot; Bailey said. &quot;It&rsquo;s kind of more our generation,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Now, Bailey said, she expects to pay more attention to Catholic issues when they pop up on Facebook.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 28 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/media-nuns-assist-catholics-staying-connected-digital-age-106328 Parents of gay Catholics struggle with church teachings http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/parents-gay-catholics-struggle-church-teachings-106277 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/catholic2.jpg" title="Barbara Marian and Jerry Powers (WBEZ/Judy Valente)" /></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F84914908" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>One of the most complex issues facing Pope Francis is how the church can minister to gay Catholics and their families. Many gay, lesbian and transgendered people have left the Roman Catholic Church because of its teaching that homosexual behavior is quote &ldquo;intrinsically disordered.&rdquo; Now, a growing number of parents are defecting too. And they&rsquo;re often people who have often been pillars of their parish community.</p><p><em>COUNTERPOINT: How traditional Catholics approach homosexual members of the church</em><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F85191177" width="100%"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">Toni and Tom Weaver&rsquo;s home in McHenry County is filled with family portraits of their three sons, whom they raised steeped in the religious traditions of the Catholic church.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I was about as active in the church as a layperson could be,&rdquo; Toni Weaver said, &ldquo;I was an organist, a choir leader, daily Mass. I lived for the church. The church was so much a part of my life that I couldn&rsquo;t imagine my life without it.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Then came the college graduation of Weaver&rsquo;s youngest son, Michael. He&rsquo;s a former Peace Corps volunteer, a pianist, avid skier and tennis player.</p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/catholic1.jpg" style="float: left; width: 300px; height: 399px; " title=" Father Bill Tkachuk of St. Nicholas Parish in Evanston (WBEZ/Judy Valente)" />&ldquo;Our son waited until the day after he graduated from college when, in absolutely classic fashion, he leaned forward in the car and said, &lsquo;Mom, Dad, I have something to tell you. I&rsquo;m gay.&rsquo; We couldn&rsquo;t wait to get home and get out of the car so both of us could just embrace him and assure that him everything was okay,&rdquo; Toni Weaver said.</p><p dir="ltr">She said that open reaction wouldn&rsquo;t have always been the case</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If he had come out to me 10 years earlier, I&rsquo;m not sure what my response would have been,&rdquo; Toni said. &ldquo;I was definitely very traditionally Catholic and had even been moving in Evangelical circles. I was the first one to preach that homosexuality was wrong.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But Weaver said she came to a fuller understanding of homosexuality when she began studying for a master&rsquo;s degree in theology:</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Here were people who were gay who were being treated atrociously, and they were being denied their basic rights, and they were the butt of jokes,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It finally dawned on me that people don&rsquo;t choose their sexual orientation. That for me was an absolute turning point, and I attribute it to the work of the spirit.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">She thought she could change others&rsquo; attitudes. But then she and her husband heard a letter read from the pulpit, criticizing same-sex marriage and civil unions.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think that was the first time I felt slapped in the face by my church,&rdquo; Toni said. &ldquo;And when I heard this coming from the pulpit, I didn&rsquo;t know what to do. (Cries.) I stood up, we were sitting in the middle of the pew. I stood up, and I turned toward the door and walked out. I grieved the church for 18 months. I grieved it. Something had died in my life.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Weaver and her husband, Tom, haven&rsquo;t attended any church since. She said she has moved on, but her husband is still bitter.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Jesus did not preach hate,&rdquo; Tom Weaver said. &ldquo;He did not teach his followers to ignore or dismiss any other individual. Jesus is known for going out for the people who were the least loved in society. That&rsquo;s not the church we have today.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">According to the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute, 56 percent of Catholics, like the Weavers, reject their church&rsquo;s teaching that homosexual activity is a sin. And 74 percent favor allowing gays to either marry or form some sort of civil union. That&rsquo;s up considerably from just a decade ago.</div><p dir="ltr">Father Bill Tkachuk of St. Nicholas Parish in Evanston said the church needs to be more sensitive to families in the way it talks about gays and gay issues: &ldquo;Speaking in the language that people can hear with their hearts and accept with their hearts, as opposed to a more academic language that can be received as very hurtful, even if it&rsquo;s not intended that way.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">His parishioners recently wrote to Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. They objected to a letter in which the cardinal called civil unions a &ldquo;legal fiction,&rdquo; and gay marriage &ldquo;contrary to the common sense of the human race.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We do not understand the disconnection between us and our leaders,&rdquo; said Barbara Marian, who has a daughter, a nephew and three nieces who are lesbian or gay.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We live with love for these neighbors, colleagues and children and we see them as whole persons,&rdquo; Marian said. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t focus on the small part of their lives that involves their genitalia.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Marian and her husband say they received &ldquo;zero support&rdquo; for their lesbian daughter from their local parish. Now they travel an hour from their home in Harvard, Ill., to Father Bill&rsquo;s parish in Evanston. They are determined to remain within the church.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;I am Catholic through and through and through,&rdquo; Marian said. &ldquo;There is no separating me from the church. Although it brings me to my knees with anger and tears when the bishops make a statement and strafe my community, I bleed.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7161_DSCN1118-scr_0.JPG" style="float: right; height: 300px; width: 400px; margin: 5px;" title="Norm and Mary Jo Bowers (WBEZ/Judy Valente)" /></p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve told my pastor, I said, &lsquo;To me my whole religion is this parish. It stays within the confines of this parish,&#39; &quot; Norm Bowers said. &quot;I have nothing anymore to do with the hierarchy and what comes out of Rome.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Norm and Mary Jo Bowers not only have a lesbian daughter who&rsquo;s been married for 14 years, their daughter now has two children &ndash; both baptized in the Catholic church. The church opposes artificial insemination and adoption by gay couples &ndash; which the new Pope Francis once likened to an idea from Satan.</div><p dir="ltr">Norm Bowers said he was offended by that and by a column in a Catholic paper. A priest wrote that children raised by gay couples might grow up &ldquo;confused.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I said to myself, which Catholic who has a brain isn&rsquo;t confused in the Catholic church today?&rdquo; Norm Bowers said. He still attends Mass. But his wife has given up on the church.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re still back in the 4th century with St Augustine,&rdquo; Mary Jo Bowers said. &ldquo;They haven&rsquo;t moved forward intellectually, or integrated new information into their thinking.&rdquo;</p><p>Like the Bowers, many parents of gays think the new Pope might at least listen to their concerns. They are less hopeful that he will actually change the church&rsquo;s current teaching.</p><p><em>WBEZ&#39;s&nbsp;</em><em>Greta Johnsen&nbsp;</em><em>helped produce this report. &nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 27 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/parents-gay-catholics-struggle-church-teachings-106277 Latinos leaving their Catholic faith, and their culture, behind http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/latinos-leaving-their-catholic-faith-and-their-culture-behind-106279 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F84916613&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jose Alvarado.JPG" style="float: left; height: 400px; width: 300px; margin: 5px;" title="Jose Alvarado, 39, was raised Catholic but has since become an atheist. It’s a point of contention for his devoutly religious family. (WBEZ/Aurora Aguilar)" />Jose Alvarado was born in Mexico, where an estimated 90 percent of residents are baptized under the Catholic faith. Jose was among them. On this Psalm Sunday, most of his family was headed to church. But not Jose.</p><p>As part of a growing but still small group of <a href="http://www.meetup.com/The-Chicago-Latino-Atheists-Meetup-Group/">Latino atheists</a>, he&rsquo;s always searching for places to <a href="http://www.hafree.org/">debate big issues</a>, like religion, economics and ethical dilemmas.</p><p>Jose goes to the Ethical Humanist Society in Skokie, Ill. Normally, this non-descript building brings in speakers on controversial topics. On the day we visited with Jose, it was folk singers. Which did not make Jose happy.</p><p>He joked that he was halfway interested until they started singing. The performers sang silly songs for the kids before they headed off to Sunday School. Only, this wasn&rsquo;t Bible studies. It was mostly drawing and other activities. Jose&rsquo;s 5-year-old daughter, Alina, sat quietly as older kids read Asian fables about floods and dragons.</p><p>A visit to the society on a Sunday is not how 39-year-old Jose was brought up. His family moved from Mexico to the West Side of Chicago when he was one. And as devout Catholics, many traditions followed them. He attended seven years of Catholic school and was at mass, at least physically, every day.</p><p>He says he recalls being bored and often sleepy.</p><p>&ldquo;You just showed up, it was something you had to do before you went to class,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Jose really started questioning his faith in his 20&#39;s, while earning a psychology degree. It was then he began to worry that the devoted often unwisely rely upon their faith to make important life decisions.</p><p>Many Latinos, for example, have an unwavering belief that praying to their patron saint, La Virgen de Guadalupe, can fix all. Jose says they&rsquo;re believing in something unproven by empirical evidence. Latinos say &ldquo;Adios,&rdquo; or &ldquo;Go With God,&rdquo; without meaning it as a blessing. These examples become routine. Jose wishes there was more active awareness of religion and how it affects the lives of its followers.</p><p>He says that it&rsquo;s hard for poor, poorly educated people to really understand and explore their religion.</p><p>&ldquo;When my parents got home from work late because they had been working 10 plus hours a day, there isn&rsquo;t any real time to delve into the finer points of what&rsquo;s really in the Bible. The way that it&rsquo;s set up culturally, it&rsquo;s not something people do on a regular basis, to think critically what their cultural beliefs are,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jose%20in%20church_0.JPG" style="float: right; height: 263px; width: 350px; margin: 5px;" title="Jose Alvarado seeks places for camaraderie and good debate. Places like the Ethical Humanist Society in Skokie, Illinois. (WBEZ/Aurora Aguilar)" />Jose says Latino clergy can forget about teachings on kindness when machismo comes into play. A friend sought protection against an abusive husband. And the priest called her a sinner, or a <em>pecadora</em>.</p><p>&ldquo;The priest (called her) a <em>pecadora</em>, basically acknowledging that the man is the head of the household and that whatever she did, she needed to go through him first, and he pretty much sent her home,&rdquo; Jose recalled.</p><p>But it was September 11th that really took Jose over the edge. The thought that people would kill thousands in homage to their God made Jose join a quietly growing number of Latinos who are becoming atheists.</p><p>Timothy Matovina, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, says it&rsquo;s an unknown and, to date, largely unsurveyed part of the Latino population. He says surveys of religious practices show that more Latinos are saying they follow no religion and that could mean they&rsquo;re non-practicing, agnostic or atheist.</p><p>Historically, the longer a family is in America, the more likely they are to leave their church, and this often causes divisions within families.</p><p>&ldquo;Because it involves emotional, familial, ties of tradition, people are not just choosing a new religion, they are also breaking away away from the religion of their own families and ancestors,&rdquo; Matovina said.</p><p>Religion is so seamlessly woven into Mexican culture that it&rsquo;s often hard for atheists like Jose to ignore some of the pervasive customs. He&rsquo;s even baptized his best friend&rsquo;s son. But he no longer believes any part of the faith.</p><p>He was the first of the Alvarados to break away from Catholicism. There are five siblings. His sister followed shortly after. The person who had the hardest time with this has been, by far, their mother Josefa. Her faith guides her daily life.</p><p>&ldquo;With my mother, this was praying the rosary, sometimes by force, and going to church, sometimes by force,&quot; Jose said. &quot;There were little pinches under the arm if you got out of line. She was forceful and I know she meant well.&quot;</p><p>Jose&rsquo;s mother now lives in El Paso, Texas. He calls her often, usually waiting until she&rsquo;s gotten out of church. The two of them speak in the formal <em>Usted</em>. It&#39;s a sign of respect. He asks how mass went, makes a dig about it and quickly, the conversation turns heated.</p><p>Josefa regularly tells her son that she believes his and his sister&rsquo;s souls are in danger. She&rsquo;s told them that she knows she&rsquo;ll end up in heaven, eternally worried about her children burning in hell. He argues that he&rsquo;s a good person, a good father who lives his life morally. Isn&rsquo;t that enough? But it&rsquo;s not just his soul she&rsquo;s worried about.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jose%20and%20Alina.JPG" style="height: 340px; width: 255px; float: right; margin: 5px;" title="Jose considers himself a moral person and good father to Alina, 5. (WBEZ/Aurora Aguilar)" />In the conversation, Jose learns that his mother is worried his and his sister&rsquo;s lack of faith will reflect poorly on her. She thinks that will be an obstacle to her entering heaven.</div><p>Those beliefs are what Jose calls superstitions. But he misses being able to connect with his mother spiritually. For example, the time he got a flat tire while on a road trip and serendipitously found a friend nearby who could help, his mother said that was God looking out for him. It&rsquo;s a blurry memory for him now, but he recalls being somewhat comforted by that thought.</p><p>Still, he wouldn&rsquo;t give up being an atheist. It provides too much freedom, he said.</p><p>&ldquo;We really don&rsquo;t know what happens to our consciousness. I don&rsquo;t want to call it (a) soul, but we don&rsquo;t know what happens to it. All evidence turns to it just being a light switch turning off. And I think that makes me value this current life more so than if I thought I had a reset,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>His mom thinks Jose will have one last chance to &quot;reset,&quot; to follow the light on his deathbed. He admitted to me that at her deathbed, he might lie and say he believes once again. But he&rsquo;ll be saying it so she won&rsquo;t worry that he&rsquo;ll spend eternity in darkness.</p><p>Until then, he&rsquo;s spending time trying to create a safe place for Latino atheists to gather and discuss heavy topics. He hopes to one day have a center built in a predominantly Latino neighborhood like Little Village or Pilsen.&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 26 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/latinos-leaving-their-catholic-faith-and-their-culture-behind-106279 Converts buck the trend of people leaving Catholic, mainline Protestant churches http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/converts-buck-trend-people-leaving-catholic-mainline-protestant-churches-106245 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS7158_holy name by vxla_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Recent studies suggest the Roman Catholic Church is in crisis: Infant baptisms are down, and some cradle Catholics are leaving. But this Easter weekend, the church will see an uptick in new members, converts who are bucking the trend.</p><p>It&#39;s a special Sunday morning inside Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago <a href="http://www.holynamecathedral.org/">holynamecathedral.org</a>. The priest wears violet for Lent, the congregation sports green for St. Patrick&rsquo;s Day, and the gospel reading is a crowd-pleaser: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. And a few pews from the front, Carol Rose is about to change her life.</p><div><p>She stands to recite the Roman Catholic Profession of Faith, a vow Catholics around the world repeat at every Mass. But like the Argentinian Cardinal just named the church&rsquo;s new Pope, Rose is crossing a threshold. Except she&rsquo;s not Catholic. Not yet anyway. This Saturday, March 30, the night before Easter, Rose plans to convert to Catholicism.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know how many times someone has asked me, &ldquo;Oh really, you&rsquo;re doing that?&rdquo; &nbsp;Very judgy. And I&rsquo;m, &ldquo;well, thank you for not holding back.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Rose is 28, and she describes herself as an actress by profession and a nanny by day job. She&rsquo;s the daughter of Baptists and Catholics.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I grew up a second-generation religious mutt,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;My parents were kind of (a) split religious family and they weren&rsquo;t sure who to make mad. Which church to take us to. So we didn&rsquo;t really grow up in a church.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">This Holy Saturday, Cardinal Francis George will baptize Rose. If past years are an indication, more than 100,000 Americans will join her that day &ndash; about 1,100 in Chicago.</p><p dir="ltr">But the tide is turning the other way: Pew Studies show that for every new Catholic who joins, four others walk away. The Catholic Church isn&rsquo;t alone &nbsp;&ndash; about a quarter of all Americans switch religions at some point &ndash; but Pew says Catholicism has taken the biggest hit.</p><p dir="ltr">Converts like Rose defy the trend. Rose spent years visiting all sorts of churches &nbsp;&ndash; Pentecostal, Presbyterian, even a temple &ndash; but nothing felt right. Then she watched her beloved grandmother die of cancer.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I became very afraid of what happens after we&rsquo;re gone,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I was just like, I need a faith, I need to build my faith stronger, I need to know what I believe so that I can not worry about this. It was just such a weight on me.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">She went to church with her boyfriend, a Catholic, and the faith started to feel like a good fit. But she struggled with some church teachings. She&rsquo;s not the only one: Polls show most American Catholics disagree with church policies against birth control and gay marriage.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a really hard thing for me, because being in theater, obviously, I have a lot of homosexual friends, a lot of them,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And I love them. And I support them.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But she says the church has a right to its beliefs, and she ultimately found its message of love and the beauty of the ritual too powerful to ignore.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;When you think about the history of it, when you think that Peter did this, and you think that this went back for 2,000 years, more than that, it&rsquo;s moving to watch it on a daily basis and it&rsquo;s you being part of that history.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Rose is getting married in October. She started the church&rsquo;s official conversion process last fall, a journey of faith that takes about a school year. After the homily on St. Patrick&rsquo;s Day, Rose and 49 others in the conversion class quietly slip out of Mass before communion starts. They have breakfast of fruit and pastries and study the gospel.</p><p dir="ltr">Their guide during the mass and weekly classes is a 78-year-old woman with a seminary degree and a grandmotherly warmth, Anne Klocke.</p><p dir="ltr">Over Klocke&rsquo;s 20 years at Holy Name, she&rsquo;s shepherded hundreds of &nbsp;Catholic converts. &nbsp;She says half her students, like Rose, are marrying Catholics; the others enter alone, many drawn to the church&rsquo;s commitment to the poor.</p><p dir="ltr">They enter at a pivotal time for the church: The day Klocke chatted with me, she was anxiously awaiting the announcement of the new pope. White smoke blew out of the Sistine Chapel chimney and the bells at Holy Name rang out a short time later.</p><div>&ldquo;All of the excitement may perk some interest, and somebody who maybe thought of being Catholic two years ago may say, oh, I&rsquo;ll take another look at that.&rdquo; Klocke said.</div><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They&rsquo;re all welcome here.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s too soon to tell whether Pope Francis will inspire more converts. But as he settles in, Klocke will prepare to welcome her next flock &ndash; and she&rsquo;s hoping for a papal bump in attendance.</p><div>&nbsp;</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 25 Mar 2013 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/converts-buck-trend-people-leaving-catholic-mainline-protestant-churches-106245 Chicago nuns take keen interest in selection of new pope http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/chicago-nuns-take-keen-interest-selection-new-pope-106083 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7143_DSCN1105-scr_0.JPG" style="height: 533px; width: 400px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Protestors release plumes of pink smoke to mimic the white and black smoke of the Vatican chimney. (Photo by Judy Valente)" />Catholics around the world are pondering what the newly elected pope will mean for their faith. Pope Francis became the first pontiff from South America Wednesday. Among the Catholics most concerned are sisters in the U.S. who have come under increasing scrutiny by the Vatican in recent years.</p><p>The sisters at St. Scholastica Monastery in Chicago gathered for prayer as Benedictine sisters have for centuries. On this day, their thoughts and prayers were with the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church.</p><p>&quot;I&rsquo;m very happy that he&rsquo;s a person from Latin America,&quot; said Sister Patricia Crowley, the prioress of St. Scholastica. &quot;My understanding is that he has lived a very simple lifestyle, and I think that&rsquo;s a really good sign.&quot;</p><p>Sister Patricia spent years working with homeless women in Chicago at a shelter called Deborah&rsquo;s Place. She sees hope in the fact that the new pope chose Saint Francis of Assisi, known for his humble lifestyle, as his namesake.</p><p>&quot;I&nbsp; am interpreting it as he understands that working in poverty and those who are poor is very important,&quot; she said.</p><p>American sisters in particular have a vested stake in the man who wears the white miter. They have been the subject of two Vatican investigations that questioned whether some sisters promoted &ldquo;radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.&rdquo; &nbsp;That crackdown resulted in widespread criticism of the all-male hierarchy by lay Catholics, both men and women.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7125_DSCN1087-scr_0.JPG" style="float: right; height: 225px; width: 300px; margin: 5px;" title="Sister Patricia Crowley at prayers at St. Scholastica. (Photo by Judy Valente)" /></p><p>&quot;The ramifications of it have been tremendous alienation in this country of laity. People were trying to figure out, &lsquo;Why do it to the sisters, the sisters of all people who seem to be most carrying out the gospel ?&rsquo; &quot; said Sister Suzanne Zuercher. She has been a nun for 50 years at St. Scholastica, one of the women&rsquo;s monasteries visited by Vatican investigators. She hopes the new pope will end the scrutiny.</p><p>&quot;I would imagine we&rsquo;ll not be at least not the first thing on his plate to deal with,&quot; she said.</p><p>Sister Suzanne has some strong ideas for the new pontiff:</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7127_DSCN1089-scr_0.JPG" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Sister Suzanne Zuercher leading prayers at St. Scholastica. (Photo by Judy Valente)" />&quot; I think the church needs housecleaning. The new pope, if I were he, (laughs) I think I would look very carefully at the Vatican and kind of clean it out and put in some new people with some fresh ideas because it&rsquo;s just become so stagnant.&quot;</p><p>She wishes the church would focus more on social justice issues such as ending torture and human trafficking and reforming immigration. Instead:</p><p>&quot;The church seems to have an unusual emphasis on anything that has to do with sex,&quot; Sister Suzanne said. &quot;Jesus didn&rsquo;t talk much about those things at all, very little. If we&rsquo;re going to follow Jesus, we should pay attention to the things he thought were worth talking about and working toward.&quot;</p><p>As the cardinals met in the Vatican to cast their final secret ballot for the new pope, in Chicago, Dominican Sister Donna Quinn stood on the steps of Holy Name Cathedral with a group of protesters, pleading for more openness in the church.</p><p>&quot;After all of this secrecy and sexual abuse in the church and cover ups, we&rsquo;re saying they should be doing cartwheels over in Rome to make the church more transparent,&quot; Sister Donna said. &quot;I like to think that even what they had for breakfast would be up on a marquee.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7132_DSCN1094-scr.JPG" style="height: 366px; width: 275px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title="" />The protesters sent up plumes of pink smoke in front of Holy Name, to call attention to the fact that Catholic women had no voice in selecting their church&rsquo;s leader.</p><p>Sister Donna is careful to point out she doesn&rsquo;t advocate ordination of women, which previous popes have said should not even be discussed, but she does want a greater voice for women.</p><p>&quot;Have an equality to them, call in think tanks of women who have been placed outside the church for so long,&quot; she said.</p><p>And Sister Donna has some other advice for the new pontiff:</p><p>&quot;I hope he forgets the Prada shoes or whatever kind of shoes they have to wear and that he will take off that robe that is both symbolic and real to walk with the people. I worked at a shelter for women and children for 25 years and never saw a bishop once, though we invited bishops to come and help and work with us there.&quot;</p><p>The sisters agree that with the recent scandals, lower attendance at Mass and declining numbers of priests and nuns, the new pope faces a critical time in church history. But none of the three, Sisters Donna, Patricia or Suzanne, think change will be forthcoming soon.</p><p>&quot;If they want prayers from the people of God they have got to walk with the people of God. Woof, I think I&rsquo;m gonna cry. I just feel this so much in my heart and it&rsquo;s so much of a passion for me,&quot; Sister Donna said. &quot;The people of God have to do the leading.&quot;</p><p>&quot;I&rsquo;m an eternal optimist personally,&quot; Sister Patricia said. &quot;However I really believe that phrase from Teilhard de Chardin, I believe in the slow work of God, so I don&rsquo;t know if this is the time when something&rsquo;s really going to change.&#39;</p><p>As for Sister Suzanne? &quot;In our lifetime this is going to be a very crucial one because we&rsquo;re losing more and more touch,&quot; she said. &quot;I think the whole hierarchical model is beginning to implode and, well, will it or won&rsquo;t it? I think we&rsquo;re kind of asking that right now.</p><p>And perhaps so is Pope Francis.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 14 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/chicago-nuns-take-keen-interest-selection-new-pope-106083 Chicago Catholics abuzz over selection of new pope http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-catholics-abuzz-over-selection-new-pope-105795 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS7001_AP618392761081(2)-scr_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Pope Benedict the Sixteenth officially resigns Thursday. He&rsquo;s the first pope to step down in nearly 600 years.</p><p>His surprise retirement hits close to home in the Chicago region -- nearly 40 percent of the population of Cook and Lake counties is Catholic.&nbsp;So the question of Benedict&rsquo;s impact &ndash; and the wish list Catholics have for the next pope &ndash; are hot topics here.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F81127617" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The annual&nbsp;Parish Leadership Day just happened to fall the weekend before the Roman Catholic church&#39;s historic transition: the pope&#39;s last day.</p><p>More than 1,300 came to Mother McCauley High School on Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest Side to&nbsp;network, pray and attend workshops on things like teen-age spirituality and parish record keeping.</p><p>Picking a new pope wasn&#39;t on the agenda, but it was a source of buzz, nonetheless.</p><p>&quot;I think there&rsquo;s some excitement about the new Holy Father.&nbsp; I&rsquo;m sure of that,&quot; said Ruth Krol.</p><p>She&#39;s one of 2 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Krol attends St. Columba parish on the city&rsquo;s far Southeast Side.</p><p>She said Benedict did a &ldquo;fine job,&rdquo; but she&rsquo;d like the next pope to be more supportive of American nuns. Last year the Vatican reprimanded America&rsquo;s largest coalition of religious sisters for feminist views and assigned a male bishop to oversee them.</p><p>&quot;I think it was really dreadful, you know, to do this to these women who dedicate their lives, their very lives,&quot; Krol said. &quot;I think they do much, much more than a lot of the clergy does.&quot;</p><p>While the pope was a popular topic, much of the talk at Saturday&#39;s Parish Leadership Day focused on other matters, like how to get more Catholics to Mass and to connect more deeply with their faith.</p><p>These concerns are pressing because more than one in 10 American Catholics has left the church. Like many spots across the nation, The Chicago Archdiocese faces a priest shortage, declining Catholic school enrollment and priest sex abuse scandals. These are issues the cardinals will take on as they select a new pope in the coming days.</p><p>Cardinal Francis George is already in Rome to take part in that process. But before he left, he took part in the Leadership Day, where he spoke to more than 1,000 people in the school gym. He gave an insider&rsquo;s view of how cardinals cast their votes inside the Sistine Chapel. He joked that his own chances were slim. And he asked for the lay leaders&#39; prayers in selecting a new pope.</p><p>&quot;He&rsquo;ll keep us connected to the 1,300,000,000 Catholics around the world,&quot; Cardinal George said. &quot;He&rsquo;s the primary symbol for that, and that&rsquo;s the big impact, so people don&rsquo;t make decisions in light of their own needs, or even their parish&rsquo;s needs or even the archdiocese&rsquo;s needs.&quot;</p><p>In the hallway outside, two priests debated where the next pope should come from. A young Polish priest thought he should come from Africa, where the church is growing fast.</p><p>But Father Adan Sandoval, who works at a primarily Latino parish in Cicero, notes that 40 percent of the Archdiocese is Latino. He thinks the next pope should come from South America.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;I think it&rsquo;s time,&quot; Father Sandoval said. &quot;I think most people are very open for the church to keep moving. They know that Europe has been such a tremendous impact to the church, but I think the church now is more vibrant and live in countries like South America. The most Catholic country is Brazil, for example.&quot;</p><p>Over at the Chicago headquarters of SNAP &ndash; the Survivors&rsquo; Network of Those Abused by Priests &ndash; founder Barbara Blaine has different hopes for the next pope. She&rsquo;d like him to open up Vatican personnel records, crack down on bishops who transfer or shelter sex abusers, and compile names of priests who have sexually abused children and post them on church websites.</p><p>&quot;I&rsquo;m hoping that this will be a new era,&quot; Blaine said. &quot;I&rsquo;m hoping that the new pope takes a completely different line of response to the crisis of sex abuse by priests than Pope Benedict.&nbsp; I think Pope Benedict&rsquo;s tenure has been dismal.&quot;</p><p>But Peter Breen&nbsp;disagreed about Pope Benedict&#39;s record on priest sex abuse. He heads the Chicago-based Thomas More Society,&nbsp;a law firm that has represented the Catholic Church in opposing birth control, same sex marriage and abortion.</p><p>&quot;I know there are some folks that have been trying to criticize him (Pope Benedict) on that front, but he has never tolerated this,&quot; said Breen. &quot;He has been very good about ensuring that punishment was swift and the church tried whatever it could to repair with the victims and to move forward.&quot;</p><p>Breen thinks Benedict will be remembered well, both for his clear teachings and for continuing the legacy of his popular predecessor, Pope John Paul II.</p><p>Both popes are widely viewed as moving the church in a more conservative direction, enforcing positions that aren&rsquo;t always popular with many American Catholics. Studies show that a majority favor birth control, gay marriage and legal abortion.</p><p>&quot;There&rsquo;s a group of people who think of the church as a political organization that can be lobbied, that doctrine, deep points of doctrine, can be changed,&quot; Breen said. &quot;And that&rsquo;s not what a church is. The church is not the U.S. government. You don&rsquo;t go to Rome like you&rsquo;re going to Springfield to lobby for a bill.&quot;</p><p>But Julie Drew, a retired elementary school teacher, said she knows the church can change. She attends St. Nicholas church in Evanston.</p><p>Drew lived through the 2<sup>nd</sup> Vatican Council in the early 1960s. She saw the Latin Mass end and more women take an active role in the church. She thinks it&rsquo;s time for women to be priests, and she sees a disconnect between the church&rsquo;s male hierarchy and American Catholics in the pews.</p><p>&quot;The reason I&rsquo;m here has nothing to do with the goo-goo-hat guys in Rome,&quot; Drew said. &quot;It has everything to do with this community, and that was kind of a gift of Vatican II, is that we empowered communities and we looked at each other and said: &#39;Those guys aren&rsquo;t the church, we&rsquo;re the church.&#39; &quot;</p><p>A fellow St. Nick&#39;s parishioner, Haiti native Maria Senecal, is hoping for a pope who focuses on peace, justice and immigrant rights. But her daughter,&nbsp;14-year-old Vanessa, wonders how much impact a new pope will have.</p><p>Vanessa attends Mass regularly with her family. There are local and national campaigns to excite young people like her and others about the Catholic church and keep them from leaving. But to Vanessa, the Vatican and election of the new pope still feels very far away.</p><p>&quot;I don&rsquo;t think it affects me too much,&quot; Vanessa said. &quot;I mean, I don&rsquo;t know that much about it. It doesn&rsquo;t make that much of a difference to me, because I kind of come to church and what happens, happens. I feel like it&rsquo;s more for the adults in charge kind of thing.&quot;</p><p>Even if Vanessa can&rsquo;t see it now, the next pope will have a direct impact here. He will choose the next archbishop of Chicago.</p><p><em>WBEZ&#39;s Diana Buendia contributed to this report.</em></p></p> Thu, 28 Feb 2013 05:08:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-catholics-abuzz-over-selection-new-pope-105795 Catholics expected to split vote in Obama's backyard http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/catholics-expected-split-vote-obamas-backyard-103633 <p><p>The Roman Catholic Church has been especially active this political season. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which includes&nbsp;Chicago&rsquo;s Cardinal Francis George, have called some Obama policies an &quot;assault on the Catholic church.&quot; They&rsquo;ve directed priests to give sermons and pass out pew cards encouraging political involvement.</p><p>The flurry of activity was sparked by a U.S. Health and Human Services mandate that includes contraception, which the U.S. Bishops call an &ldquo;infringement on religious freedom.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Polls show Catholics nearly evenly divided, with Obama up 2 percent.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Rally.JPG" style="height: 199px; width: 300px; float: left; " title="(WBEZ/Cassidy Herrington)" /></p><p>Chicago had one of the biggest turn-outs at the recent &quot;Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally.&quot;</p><p>Nearly 2,000 Catholics and pro-life supporters chanting &quot;Vote for freedom&quot; marched up Dearborn Street last month. They were protesting abortion and requiring insurance coverage for contraception. &nbsp;</p><p>A giant, yellow Vatican flag billowed over the procession of marchers that met in Daley Plaza.</p><p>The rally was billed as a non-partisan event. Numerous signs reading &ldquo;Stop Obama&rsquo;s HHS Mandate&rdquo; were dispersed among posters of Lady Guadalupe. One participant held up a homemade &ldquo;Obamunism&rdquo; poster that depicted Obama&rsquo;s logo alongside hammer and sickle.</p><p>Rev. Rocky Hoffman, a Catholic talk radio personality, was the first to take the podium. He opened with a prayer and led the crowd in repeating the GOP convention chant, &ldquo;We Built This.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">Hoffman told the crowd that their tax dollars constructed the plaza they occupied, so it was their duty to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the law.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The rally was one of more than 450 across the country, part of a series of events led by Catholic leaders over several months to protest the mandate and other issues, culminating in the election.</div></div><p><img alt="Eric Scheidler, the executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, stands in Daley Plaza after the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally." class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Scheidler.JPG" style="height: 199px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="(WBEZ/Cassidy Herrington)" /></p><p>The co-chair of the rally, Eric Scheidler, said abortion and contraception should be pivotal to Catholic voters. He&#39;s the executive director of Chicago-based advocacy group, The Pro-Life Action League.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t be given a chance at a great education if you&rsquo;re not even allowed the chance to be born,&rdquo; Scheidler said. &ldquo;Logically it&rsquo;s the most prior issue of all.&rdquo;</p><p>Another Chicago-based organization, CatholicVote.org, runs a national campaign that has &quot;enthusiastically&quot; endorsed Romney and uses blogs and social media sites to reach voters.</p><p>The Catholic Church itself cannot endorse candidates because of church teaching and its 501(c)(3) tax status.</p><p>But Scheidler said he wants his parish priest to openly support a candidate.</p><p>&ldquo;I do hope and pray that the 5013c restrictions that were snuck into the IRS code will be struck down and churches will be freer to talk about politics from the pulpit,&rdquo; Scheidler said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think we have anything to fear from any individuals or associations of individuals (like churches) to be involved actively in politics.&rdquo;</p><p>Sister Helena Burns, who attended the rally, said she thinks the bishops acted appropriately in their firm stance against contraception.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rallyclose.JPG" style="height: 199px; width: 300px; float: right; margin: 5px; " title="(WBEZ/Cassidy Herrington)" /></p><p>&ldquo;People will say &lsquo;Oh you shouldn&rsquo;t be a one-issue voter,&rsquo; which you shouldn&rsquo;t, but we&rsquo;re looking at the most fundamental right of all rights, the right to life.&rdquo; Burns said. &ldquo;And if we see the most sacred part of life, which is life and love, is under attack, then sometimes you need to have a priority and a hierarchy of values, a hierarchy of issues.&rdquo;</p><p>Not all Catholics are comfortable with the church&rsquo;s involvement in politics this year.</p><p>A Pew Research Survey from October says 69 percent of Catholics do not want churches to favor one candidate over another.</p><p>Father Christopher Robinson, the pastor at St. Vincent DePaul Parish, said parishioners are so influenced by their priest that it would be an &ldquo;abuse&rdquo; of power to endorse a candidate.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re talking about thousands and thousands of people, whose vote would be influenced. I mean, even I can&rsquo;t even speak in conscience if my cardinal told me I must preach from the pulpit,&rdquo; Robinson said.&nbsp;&ldquo;If people are worried about church attendance now, I think it would just splinter, we&rsquo;d lose all credibility.&rdquo;</p><p>Robinson firmly believes that it all comes down to &ldquo;individual personal conscience&rdquo; when Catholics enter the voting booth. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If somebody says &lsquo;Father tell me how to vote,&rsquo; I will say, &lsquo;Well, you walk into the booth and you look at the ballot, that&rsquo;s how you vote.&#39; I&rsquo;m not going to tell you who to vote for.&rdquo;</p><p>He says one singular &ldquo;Catholic Vote&rdquo; simply doesn&rsquo;t exist.</p><p>&nbsp;&ldquo;It&rsquo;s very interesting when you have Catholics who are on two extremes in one community, and I certainly have this here. We have individuals who are extremely vocal about their beliefs and also about who they&rsquo;re going to vote for. There&rsquo;s no ambiguity whatsoever.&rdquo;</p><p>One parishioner, Therese Rowley, is voting for Obama. While the church has been focusing on contraception and religious freedom, she says Obama is the best representative of Catholic teachings on service toward the poor.</p><p>&ldquo;I think the church needs to become more democratic, and they need to understand that life happens with the people, and they out to learn from what&rsquo;s going on in the street, rather than the other way around,&quot; Rowley said.&nbsp;</p><p>She added that church officials should give more emphasis to the &quot;quality of life,&quot; with economic programs and benefits for the poor.</p><p>&quot;I think Jesus was telling people at the hierarchy, &lsquo;You guys aren&rsquo;t getting it,&rsquo;&quot; Rowley said. &quot;He worked at the street level. He talked to prostitutes and had dinner with tax collectors.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;As long as we trust each other to do the hard work, to pray, to really read, to study, I think we trust each other to go into the voting both doing the very best they can,&rdquo; said her pastor, Father Robinson.</p><p>But he said if Catholics don&rsquo;t think either candidate fits the bill, they can just leave that spot on the ballot blank.</p></p> Sat, 03 Nov 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/catholics-expected-split-vote-obamas-backyard-103633