The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors
Catholics Close 33 Parishes in
Post-Katrina New Orleans
he Archdiocese of New Orleans on April 9 announced a sweeping post-Hurricane Katrina reorganization of parish life that essentially accepted the storm's permanent destruction of 17 church communities.
Archbishop Alfred Hughes announced a wide-ranging package of mergers, closures, downsizings, and shared-pastor arrangements that reached far beyond the flood zone to touch churches in relatively undamaged areas.
Overall, the plan closed 33 parishes, reducing the number in the archdiocese to 108, according to church figures. Some churches would be kept open as missions--essentially second churches in a single parish, where the sacraments would still be celebrated.
Hughes called the downsizing plan "a pivotal moment in the history of the archdiocese."
The reorganization appeared to close permanently at least 20 churches, including some notables such as Sacred Heart of Jesus in New Orleans' Mid-City section, where Louis Armstrong was christened in 1901. Congregations in suburban St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, and Washington parishes appeared to be unaffected in the massive restructuring. Hughes also announced that the archdiocese will neither open nor close any parochial schools in the foreseeable future.
The Rev. Michael Jacques, one of the architects of the process, said the archdiocese does not yet have a plan for selling any of the churches. Hughes said he prefers to find another ministry-related use for them, followed by some civic use "for the common good," reserving sale for commercial use as a third option.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the country's largest abortion business, garnered more than $1 billion in income for the first time in history last year.
Planned Parenthood jumped from making $972 million in 2005-06 to $1.017 billion in the 2006-07 fiscal year, according to its recently released annual report. Of last year's revenue, $336.7 million, or about one-third, came in government grants and contracts.
Planned Parenthood's abortion figures also increased markedly from calendar year 2005 to 2006, according to the report. The number of abortions provided by Planned Parenthood affiliates grew to 289,750 from 264,943. In addition, the total of emergency contraceptive kits dispensed by Planned Parenthood affiliates increased to 1,436,846 from 1,240,516. Commonly called Plan B or the "morning-after pill," emergency contraception can have the effect of preventing an embryo from implanting in the uterine wall, thereby causing an abortion.
The Planned Parenthood report also showed the organization doubling its "excess of revenue over expenses" from $55.7 million in 2005-06 to $112 million last year. Rep. Mike Pence, R.-Ind., again is seeking to pull some of the federal funding from the organization because of its abortion practice. He is expected to propose an amendment this summer that would prohibit grants from going to Planned Parenthood under Title X, the government's family planning program. The House of Representatives turned back Pence's efforts last year.
"We don't give any U.S. tax dollars to any foreign family planning organization that promotes or provides abortion as a means of birth control," Pence said in a written statement. "It's time the American people know the largest recipient of Title X funding in America is the largest abortion provider as well. It's time to pass the Pence Amendment to keep taxpayer money out of the hands of Planned Parenthood."
Planned Parenthood received about $70 million in Title X funds during 2005-06.
Pro-life advocates outside Congress also are calling for Planned Parenthood's defunding. "It is outrageous that Planned Parenthood, the nation's leading abortion provider, continues to reach into the pocket of the American taxpayer to the tune of $336 million per annum," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "I join pro-lifers across the country in applauding Congressman Pence's effort to rectify this egregious use of the public purse. I would call upon Americans to make their views on this matter known to their elected representatives."
To read the rest of the story, please click here.
Archdiocese of Portland Hands Over Deeds to 124 Parishes
The Catholic Archdiocese of Portland is sorting out who owns hundreds of millions of dollars in church property and handing the deeds over to its 124 parishes.
The change is required by the bankruptcy settlement last April between the archdiocese and claimants. But a critic considers it a pointless maneuver meant to protect the archdiocese from future lawsuits.
In 2004, the Portland Archdiocese became the first U.S. Catholic diocese to declare bankruptcy; four other dioceses later followed suit. Portland emerged from bankruptcy with a $75 million settlement last year. As part of the deal, parishes will receive the legal titles of their real property, including churches, schools, and meetings halls, by the end of the month. Until now, almost all parish real estate deeds were in the name of the archdiocese.
During two-year bankruptcy proceedings, the archdiocese argued that parish real estate could not be sold for the settlement because it was held in trust for the parishes. But critics say the new structure creates the impression that the property is safe from future lawsuits.
"Once again, the church attempts to deceive the rank and file into believing they have some control," said Bill Crane, director of Oregon Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "At the end of the day, when all is said and done, it's the bishops and the hierarchy who do."
Archbishop John Vlazny outlined the plan in a March 14 letter to parishioners recently distributed in churches. "Most parishioners will not notice any difference in the life of the parish as a result of the restructuring," he wrote.
The restructuring is one of the last requirements that the archdiocese must fulfill in the $75 million bankruptcy settlement that provided financial relief for about 175 people who say they were sexually abused by priests. In theory, one parish could be sued under the new plan but the other parishes would not need to worry that their property would be seized for a settlement, an issue that took months to resolve during the bankruptcy.
But it hasn't been tested in court, said Albert N. Kennedy, who represented plaintiffs during the bankruptcy. The restructuring will not affect future claims covered by last year's bankruptcy settlement. And he's not sure it would simplify any court cases down the line. "In fact, the archbishop is in control of the entire archdiocese, and that is not going to change," he said. "All the control is still in one person."
Poll says Bible is America's favorite book
The Bible is the favorite book of all time for American adults, regardless of demographic group, according to a new 2008 Harris Interactive Poll.
Researchers said it's rare to find such consensus among Americans, regardless of gender, education level, geographic location, race/ethnicity, or age. Yet, more than 2,500 Americans surveyed in an online poll greed that the Bible is their No. 1 favorite book. The poll also found that political affiliation did not affect novel preference -- Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike agreed on The Bible and "Gone With the Wind" as their top two favorite books.
According to the survey, America's favorite books are:
1. "The Bible"
2. "Gone With the Wind," by Margaret Mitchell
3. "Lord of the Rings" (series), by J.R.R. Tolkien
4. "Harry Potter" (series), by J.K. Rowling
5. "The Stand," by Stephen King
6. "The Da Vinci Code," by Dan Brown
7. "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee
8. "Angels and Demons," by Dan Brown
9. "Atlas Shrugged," by Ayn Rand
10. "Catcher in the Rye," by J.D. Salinger