WBEZ | pope francis http://www.wbez.org/tags/pope-francis Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Vatican signals new tone on US nuns http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/vatican-signals-new-tone-us-nuns-111243 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP475133071654.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An unprecedented Vatican investigation of U.S. women&#39;s religious orders that alarmed Roman Catholic sisters when the inquiry began years ago ended Tuesday with a report signaling a softer approach under Pope Francis.</p><p>The report praised sisters for their selfless work caring for the poor and promised to value their &quot;feminine genius&quot; more, while gently suggesting ways to serve the church faithfully and survive amid a steep drop in their numbers. There was no direct critique of the nuns, nor any demand for them to change &mdash; only requests that they ensure their ministries remain &quot;in harmony with Catholic teaching.&quot;</p><p>&quot;There is an encouraging and realistic tone in this report,&quot; said Sister Sharon Holland, head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the umbrella organization for most U.S. religious orders. &quot;Challenges are understood, but it is not a document of blame, or of simplistic solutions. One can read the text and feel appreciated and trusted to carry on.&quot;</p><p>The laudatory language contrasted sharply with the atmosphere in which the review started under Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Franc Rode, who in 2008 initiated the nationwide study when he led the Vatican office that oversees religious orders, said there was concern about &quot;a certain secular mentality that has spread in these religious families and, perhaps, also a certain &#39;feminist&#39; spirit.&quot;</p><p>Rode left the post while the review was still under way, and his successors had said they wanted a friendlier relationship with the sisters.</p><p>Still, many nuns remained concerned about the outcome of the investigation under Francis&#39; still-young pontificate. Some nuns had taken legal steps during the inquiry to shield the financial assets of their religious orders in case of a Vatican takeover.</p><p>The report expressed hope that sisters would take &quot;this present moment as an opportunity to transform uncertainty and hesitancy into collaborative trust&quot; with the church hierarchy. Many sisters have complained that their work often went unrecognized by priests and requested improved dialogue with bishops to clarify their role in the church and give them greater voice in decisions, according to the report.</p><p>Before the news conference releasing the report in Rome, leaders for the sisters and the nun who oversaw the review, Mother Mary Clare Millea, attended the pope&#39;s daily Mass in the Vatican hotel where he lives and spoke with him briefly, where he offered his blessing.</p><p>Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, based in Maryland, said in a statement the document signaled &quot;a hope for future dialogue and communion among and between women religious and church leaders.&quot;</p><p>&quot;The report is clearly focused on cooperation. It&#39;s clearly focused on dialogue, which I think is not necessarily what people expected back in 2008 when this issue came up,&quot; said Jana Bennett, a specialist in Catholic theology and ethics at the University of Dayton, Ohio.</p><p>Still, American nuns are dealing with the fallout from a separate investigation from a different Vatican office. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 2012 ordered an overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of U.S. sisters. The doctrine office said the organization strayed from church teaching and promoted &quot;radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.&quot; Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain was appointed to oversee the Leadership Conference, potentially through 2017.</p><p>Holland said she was &quot;working hard and working well&quot; with Sartain and other Vatican-appointed delegates, and the process might end sooner than originally expected.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re moving toward resolution of that,&quot; she said.</p><p>Both investigations prompted an outpouring of support from many rank-and-file American Catholics who viewed the inquiries as a crackdown by the all-male Vatican hierarchy against the underpaid, underappreciated women who do the lion&#39;s share of work running Catholic hospitals, schools and services for the poor.</p><p>Theological conservatives have long complained that after the modernizing reforms of the 1960s Second Vatican Council, women&#39;s religious orders in the U.S. became secular and political while abandoning traditional prayer life and faith.</p><p>The nuns insisted prayer and Christ were central to their work.</p><p>Along with praise, the report offered a sobering assessment of the difficult state of American religious orders. The current number of 50,000 U.S. sisters represents a fraction of the 125,000 in the mid-1960s, although that was an atypical spike in U.S. church history.</p><p>Financial resources to care for sisters are dwindling as they age, and the orders have struggled to attract new members. The report asked the sisters to make sure their training programs reflect church teaching and their members pray and focus on Christ.</p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 16:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/vatican-signals-new-tone-us-nuns-111243 Chicago-area nuns weigh in on Pope's first anniversary http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/chicago-area-nuns-weigh-popes-first-anniversary-109852 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/pope nuns.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s been a tough couple of years for nuns in the U.S.<br /><br />In 2012 the Vatican essentially ordered three male bishops to oversee the group representing 80 percent of American nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, saying the LCWR promoted &ldquo;radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.&rdquo;</p><p>So when a new pope came in exactly a year ago, many in this group wondered what it might mean for them and a range of women&rsquo;s issues from the Vatican investigation of nuns, to birth control, to women&rsquo;s ordination.</p><p>&ldquo;All I had was some hope, not a great deal for anything new or different,&rdquo; said Sister Suzanne Zuercher, a Benedictine at St. Scholastica Monastery on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side.</p><p>&ldquo;Now that a year has passed, I can&rsquo;t believe who it is that that conclave elected,&rdquo; Sister Suzanne said, adding that she was surprised and even amazed by how much Pope Francis has accomplished in a year. She pointed to how he had begun reforming the Curia (essentially the Vatican&rsquo;s top dogs) and cleaning house at the scandal-ridden Vatican bank.</p><p>Sister Suzanne said she appreciated how the Pope had changed the focus of the church from doctrinal to pastoral.<br /><br />&ldquo;The church has so often appeared, and been, grim. That is so different with this man,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s not grim at all, he is relaxed, he&rsquo;s joyous, and he says without being joyful, what do we have to offer people?&rdquo;<br /><br />Sister Suzanne and her Prioress, Sister Patricia Crowley, both said the Pope&rsquo;s popularity and symbolic acts like openly refusing to judge gay priests are creating a new image of the papacy and the church.</p><p>And while they acknowledge he&rsquo;s had a busy first year, they are waiting for him to take on women&rsquo;s issues in the church.</p><p>The Pope previously said he has a &ldquo;vivid hope&rdquo; women will play a &ldquo;more capillary and incisive&rdquo; role in the church. In an interview with Latin American nuns, he told them if they got a letter announcing an investigation similar to U.S. nuns, not to worry.</p><p>Sister Patricia is cautiously optimistic this could translate to action. Someday, she&nbsp; said, she even hopes to see women&rsquo;s ordination. But she admits the church moves slowly.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s gradual,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But basically, I&rsquo;d like to see that women are equal to men within the church because the first witness to the resurrection was a woman, and I think that&rsquo;s a pretty clear gospel message that indeed women are equal to men.&rdquo;</p><p>In the meantime, Pope Frances still hasn&rsquo;t lifted oversight from many U.S. nuns. That doesn&rsquo;t surprise Charles Reid, a Catholic blogger and professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.<br /><br />&ldquo;When he renewed that investigation, he was brand new on the job. He wasn&rsquo;t going to upset apple carts that quickly,&rdquo; Reid said. &ldquo;I do not think he will do what (Pope) Benedict was doing, and that is relentlessly pursue nuns.&rdquo;<br /><br />Reid explained that Pope Francis &ndash; who&rsquo;s a Jesuit &ndash; comes from a tradition that values spirited academic debate.<br /><br />&ldquo;Will he open doors to the ordination of women? No,&rdquo; Reid said. &ldquo;Will he open the doors to scholarship that could lead there in 20 years? Maybe, maybe.&rdquo;<br /><br />That day can&rsquo;t come soon enough for Sister Donna Quinn, a local activist nun. She wants women to have an equal voice and vote in the church.<br /><br />&ldquo;I really don&rsquo;t see any action,&rdquo; Sister Donna said. &ldquo;I see this nice wonderfulness of words and the media. Why doesn&rsquo;t the media pick up on the fact that the church is all men? All men are in power.&rdquo;<br /><br />But Sister Donna sees one hopeful sign in the Pope&rsquo;s more humble lifestyle, including his decision to ditch those fancy red shoes.<br /><br />&ldquo;If he has taken off those expensive shoes and the garb and walked with the people, he is taking that first wonderful step,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot more to follow, hopefully.&rdquo;<br /><br /><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a producer/reporter covering religion, culture and science for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes" target="_blank">@LynetteKalsnes</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 17:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/chicago-area-nuns-weigh-popes-first-anniversary-109852 Pope Francis clears John Paul II for sainthood http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/pope-francis-clears-john-paul-ii-sainthood-107956 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP110501033150.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Pope Francis on Friday cleared Pope John Paul II for sainthood, approving a miracle attributed to his intercession and setting up a remarkable dual canonization along with another beloved pope, John XXIII.</p><p>In a major demonstration of his papal authority, Francis decided to make John XXIII a saint even though the Vatican hasn&#39;t confirmed a second miracle attributed to his intercession. The Vatican said Francis had the power to dispense with the normal saint-making procedures to canonize John on his own merits.</p><p>To anyone who has been paying attention, Francis&#39; decision to canonize both should come as no surprise: He was made a cardinal by John Paul and is very much a pope of the Second Vatican Council, the ground-breaking church meetings that brought the Catholic Church into the modern world which John XXIII opened a year before his death in 1963.</p><p>The council opened the church to people of other faiths and allowed for Mass to be celebrated in the languages of the faithful, rather than Latin.</p><p>John Paul, who was pope from 1978-2005, revolutionized the papacy, traveling the world and inspiring a generation of young Catholics to be excited about their faith. He was the first Polish pope and the first non-Italian in 455 years &mdash; a legacy that continued with the German-born Benedict XVI and Francis.</p><p>On the anniversary of John Paul&#39;s death this year, Francis prayed at the tombs of both John Paul and John XXIII &mdash; an indication that he sees a great personal and spiritual continuity in them.</p><p>Benedict spent much of his pontificate trying to correct what he considered wrong interpretations of Vatican II, insisting it wasn&#39;t the break from the past that liberals believed.</p><p>While not disagreeing outright with Benedict, Francis seems to take a more progressive read of Vatican II and its call to go out into the world and spread the faith &mdash; a priority he has shown in the first months of his pontificate.</p><p>The canonization ceremony is expected before the end of the year.</p><p>Polish media on Friday continued to press for an October canonization, to mark the 35th anniversary of John Paul&#39;s 1978 election, but Vatican officials have said that&#39;s too soon to organize such a massive event. Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a major feast day for the church, has also been floated as a possibility.</p><p>The canonization nnouncement came shortly after the release of Francis&#39; first encyclical, a meditation on faith that is unique because it was written with someone else: Benedict XVI.</p><p>Benedict&#39;s hand is evident throughout much of the first three chapters of &quot;The Light of Faith,&quot; with his theological style, concerns and reference points clear.</p><p>Francis&#39; priorities come through strongest in the final chapter, where the Argentine Jesuit insists on the role of faith in serving the common good and giving hope to those who suffer. It includes his first clear statement as pope on marriage being a union between man and woman with the aim of creating children.</p><p>The encyclical didn&#39;t appear to break new ground in church teaching; its novelty was entirely in the dual authorship, and that it was the first of Francis&#39; nascent pontificate.</p><p>The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed that the miracle that brought John Paul to the ranks of sainthood concerned a Costa Rican woman.</p><p>The Spanish newspaper La Razon has identified her as Floribeth Mora, and said she suffered from a cerebral aneurism that was inexplicably cured on May 1, 2011 &mdash; the day of John Paul&#39;s beatification, when 1.5 million people filled St. Peter&#39;s Square to honor the beloved Polish pontiff.</p><p>La Razon reported last month that Mora awoke with debilitating head pain on April 8 and went to the hospital, where her condition worsened to the point that she was sent home with only a month to live.</p><p>Her family prayed to John Paul, and the aneurism disappeared.</p><p>La Razon quoted her doctor, Dr. Alejandro Vargas, as saying: &quot;It surprised me a lot that the aneurism disappeared, I can&#39;t explain it based on science.&quot;</p><p>The Associated Press has traveled to Mora&#39;s home in Costa Rica but has been told that she is bound by secrecy and cannot discuss her case.</p><p>The Vatican&#39;s complicated saint-making procedure requires that the Vatican certify a &quot;miracle&quot; was performed through the intercession of the candidate &mdash; a medically inexplicable cure that is lasting, immediate and can be directly linked to the prayers offered by the faithful. One miracle is needed for beatification, a second for canonization.</p><p>Then-Pope Benedict XVI put John Paul on the fast track for possible sainthood when he dispensed with the traditional five-year waiting period and allowed the beatification process to begin weeks after his John Paul&#39;s death. Benedict was responding to chants of &quot;Santo Subito!&quot; or &quot;Sainthood Immediately&quot; which erupted during John Paul&#39;s funeral.</p><p>There is some concern that the process has been too quick. Some of the Holy See&#39;s deep-seated problems &mdash; clerical sex abuse, dysfunctional governance and more recently the financial scandals at the Vatican bank &mdash; essentially date from shortcomings of his pontificate.</p><p>Thus the decision to canonize John Paul along with John XXIII can be seen as trying to balance those concerns.</p><p>Such was the case in 2000, when John Paul beatified John XXIII, dubbed the &quot;good pope,&quot; alongside Pope Pius IX, who was criticized by Jews for condoning the seizure of a Jewish boy and allegedly referring to Jews as dogs.</p><p>Asked how John XXIII, elected in 1958, could be canonized without a second miracle, Lombardi insisted that many theologians believe that isn&#39;t required and that a canonization can take place based on the first miracle required for beatification. He said Francis had approved a decision by the cardinals and bishops of the Vatican&#39;s saint-making office.</p><p>&quot;Certainly the pope has the power, in a certain sense, to dispense of the second miracle in a cause, and this is what happened,&quot; Lombardi said.</p><p>He stressed that this decision didn&#39;t represent any relaxing of the Vatican&#39;s overall standards for canonization, but represented a unique situation, given that the church this year is marking the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.</p><p>&quot;John XXIII is someone who we know is beloved in the church, we&#39;re in the 50th anniversary of the Council which he started, and I don&#39;t think any of us have any doubts about his virtues,&quot; Lombardi said.</p><p>In Poland, the reaction was overjoyed, as expected.</p><p>Rev. Kazimierz Sowa, the head of Religion TV channel, said on TVN that Poles are expected to flood to Rome for the ceremony.</p><p>&quot;John Paul II was extremely popular during his lifetime and he still continues to inspire people,&quot; Sowa said. But he insisted that an October date was preferable, to accommodate the throngs expected at the outdoor ceremony.</p><p>&quot;In their interest, I think we should expect the canonization in the fall,&quot; he said.</p></p> Fri, 05 Jul 2013 08:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/pope-francis-clears-john-paul-ii-sainthood-107956 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 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