What about NY’s sex-abuse settlements?

Boston will always be Ground Zero for the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal.

But LA is now close behind.

As you’ve probably heard, the nation’s largest archdiocese has agreed to a record $660 million settlement that closes all 508 cases that were open the archdiocese. LA also paid $60 million in December to settle 45 cases.

The overall cost to Catholic dioceses in the U.S. has now passed $2 billion, the AP reported.

Five dioceses filed for bankruptcy: Spokane, Wash.; Davenport, Iowa; San Diego; Tucson, Ariz.; and Portland, Ore.

But what about New York?

Every now and then, when there is major news related to the scandal or a settlement, people ask me: What about New York?

The fact is — and I don’t know how many New Yorkers know this, even though it has been reported by myself and others — the Archdiocese of New York has faced FAR fewer sex-abuse cases during the last half-century than other large and even medium-size dioceses.

When all dioceses came clean in 2004, as part of a unprecedented “national study,”:http://www.usccb.org/ocyp/ the numbers in NY looked like this: 45 diocesan priests had been found to have committed at least one act of abuse against a minor between 1950 and 2002.

These priests had been accused by 136 individuals (some of whom had been victims more than once).

Over a half-century, the archdiocese and its insurance companies paid out $12.7 million on settlements, counseling and legal fees.

By any measure, these numbers were small for one of the five largest archdioceses in the country. Which is not to say, of course, that even five cases would have been acceptable. I don’t want to sound like what took place was not a big deal. I know of victims who were not treated well by the archdiocese — who were given a quick payoff and told to keep quiet.

But, considering the numbers that came out of Boston, LA and many other dioceses, the only conclusion to reach is that NY did something right or got lucky — or both.

It’s important to note, as well, that one defrocked NY priest, Edward Pipala, molested dozens of boys between the late 1960s and early 1990s. So he accounted for a pretty large percentage of all sex-abuse cases in NY.

Take away Pipala and things in NY — comparatively speaking — have been very, very quiet.

Studying Catholics (with an evangelical lens)

Now we know: Catholics are mainstream Americans.

It’s hard to believe but there was a time, only a few decades ago, when Catholics were not considered mainstream. They were perceived by mainstream Protestant culture as mysterious, blue-collar, cultish…and worse.

A “new study”:http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdateNarrow&BarnaUpdateID=274 from the evangelical Barna Group concludes that Catholics are as mainstream as anybody. They’re indistinguishable from Americans as a whole, the study shows, except when it comes to questions of faith.

Hmmm.

A summary from Barna says this:

Of the dozen faith-oriented behaviors tested, Catholics strayed from the norm in relation to eight of the 12 items. Specifically, the typical Catholic person donated about 17% less money to churches; was 38% less likely than the average American to read the Bible; 67% less likely to attend a Sunday school class; 20% less likely to share their faith in Christ with someone who had different beliefs; 24% less likely to say their religious faith has greatly transformed their life; and were 36% less likely to have an “active faith,” which Barna defined as reading the Bible, praying and attending a church service during the prior week. However, Catholics were 16% more likely than the norm to attend a church service and 8% more likely to have prayed to God during the prior week.

The spiritual beliefs of Catholics are also substantially different from the typical views of Americans. Catholics differed from most people on seven of the 11 belief-focused questions raised. For instance, Catholics were significantly less likely to believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches and only half as likely to maintain that they have a responsibility to share their faith with others. They were more likely than the norm to say that Satan is not real; to believe that eternal salvation is earned; and to contend that Jesus Christ sinned while on earth.

One might say that Barna’s emphasis on the Bible and Sunday School attendance says more about evangelical priorities than about what Catholics hold dear.

Sure, Catholics are less likely to stress biblical accuracy and evangelism. That’s because they’re Catholics and not evangelicals.

George Barna, who directed the study, says this:

“The history of American Catholics is that of a pool of immigrants who have successfully blended into the native culture. They have done well at adapting to their surroundings and emerging to become a backbone of the community and the national economy. The questions raised fifty years ago about the political loyalties and social objectives of Catholics are no longer relevant in this society. Yet, the cost of that struggle to achieve acceptance and legitimacy is that Catholics have largely lost touch with much of their substantive spiritual heritage. They retain an appreciation for tradition and consistency, but have much less of a commitment to knowing and practicing the commands of Christ. For instance, the data show that some of their long-held distinctives, such as being champions of social justice, are no longer a defining facet of their community.”

“The trail of Catholicism in America is a clear example of culture influencing faith more often than faith influencing culture. The faith of tens of millions of Catholics is affected by the prevailing culture more than by the central principles and teachings of the Bible. Spiritual leaders who are passionate about remaining true to the scriptures and to Catholicism’s historic commitment to Jesus Christ and the Word of God must address this spiritual drift within the body. If they fail to do so, in the next quarter century American Catholicism could well lose its ability to shape people’s minds and hearts in ways that conform to the historic teachings and purposes of Christianity.”

Wondering about those ‘God’ mailings?

banner_480×60.jpg

If you got the above mailing or leaflet in recent days that shows a bald guy scratching his head  and says “The God Questions,” I can tell you who sent it.

The same new White Plains congregation I “wrote about”:http://lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070713/NEWS02/707130373/1028/NEWS12 on Friday: Christ the King Church, a Southern Baptist congregation.

“Christ the King”:http://www.christthekingchurch.info/ set up shop last fall at the YWCA on North Street, and its two pastors are working hard to interest suburbanites in a Bible-based evangelical church. Last week, 19 people from a Southern Baptist Church in Indiana came to White Plains to help Christ the King evangelize.

You may have seen them in or around White Plains the past few days, wearing light blue T-shirts, handing out leaflets or praying with people. The group leaves tomorrow, after going to the Yankees game tonight. (Wes Feltner, the associate pastor of Oak Park Baptist Church in Jeffersonville, Ind., told me that he has been a Yankee fan since he watched Pride of the Yankees when he was a kid.)

Anyway, Christ the King is promoting a series of talks about basic religious questions. The God Questions, they call it.

Your leaflets (they seemed to get wide distribution) show that the series opens with the question “Does God exist?” which the church will tackle on July 22 and 29 at its regular Sunday services, held at 10 a.m. at the Y, 515 North St.

I bet I know Christ the King’s answer.

Coming to NY in 2008: Benedict XVI

As expected, Pope Benedict XVI plans to come to NY in 2008.

A spokesman said yesterday that the pope hopes to address the UN, but no date has been set. But many think he’ll be here in September for the opening of the annual U.N. General Assembly session.

You have to figure that Benedict will spend some time elsewhere in the Archdiocese of New York, perhaps celebrating a big Mass or two? Maybe he’ll get to chat with his new archbishop of New York.

Joe Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, just released this statement, shortly after noon:

The clergy, religious, and laity of the Archdiocese of New York are delighted with the news that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will be addressing the United Nations here in New York this coming Spring.  We look forward to welcoming him and await details about his visit.  His Eminence, Edward Cardinal Egan, told the Holy Father in Rome last week that all of the People of God of the Archdiocese will be praying over the months that lie ahead that his Apostolic visit will be crowned with every grace and blessing. 

The pope also plans to deliver a major speech during a Sept. 7-9 trip to Austria, which is the headquarters of the U.N. nuclear agency.

If you want to know how Benedict has been spending his vacation, here’s the AP story by Nicole Winfield:

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI hopes to visit New York and Lourdes, France, in 2008, and plans to deliver an important speech to diplomats during his upcoming trip to Vienna, the Vatican spokesman said Sunday.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi didn’t specify what the speech would cover during the pope’s Sept. 7-9 trip to Austria, but Vienna is the headquarters of the U.N. nuclear agency. Lombardi said Benedict would deliver an “internationally important� speech to diplomats accredited to Vienna-based international organizations.
He said early plans are under way for a papal trip next year to the shrine at Lourdes, to mark the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Madonna. The trip will also be a significant emotional one, Lombardi said, since Pope John Paul II’s last foreign trip was to Lourdes.
“We also hope to go to the United Nations,� Lombardi said. No date for the trip has been set; heads of state and government gather each September in New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly session. Continue reading

Hindu chaplain gets interrupted

I mentioned a few days back that a Hindu chaplain would be offering the opening prayer for the U.S. Senate yesterday.

Well, Rajan Zed from Reno, Nev., gave the prayer alright, but not without three people shouting “this is an abomination” from the gallery. One protester said “we are Christians and patriots,” according to the “Washington Post”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/12/AR2007071202007.html account.

The three were charged with disrupting Congress, a misdemeanor.

You can see a video “here.”:http://electioncentral.tpmcafe.com/blog/electioncentral/2007/jul/12/christian_right_activists_disrupt_hindu_chaplain_in_the_senate

Zed, an American citizen born in India, opened his prayer with:

We meditate on the transcendental glory of the Deity Supreme, who is inside the heart of the Earth, inside the life of the sky and inside the soul of the heaven. May He stimulate and illuminate our minds.

Is America becoming more secular, Europe more religious?

Everyone knows that the U.S. is a deeply religious country and that Europe is committed to secularism.

Right?

There’s a provocative column is this month’s “Atlantic”:http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200707/religion by Ross Douthat, the magazine’s associate editor, that makes the case that the conventional wisdom is slowly changing.

The U.S., he says, began taking a “secular turn” during the 90s. One study showed that the percentage of Americans saying they had “no religious preferenceâ€? had doubled in less than a decade from 7 percent to 14 percent.

He says that the growth of a “hard secularism” is a reaction against the growing power of the Religious Right.

“Indeed, the America that many secularists seem to desire looks an awful lot like the Europe of today, where politicians who mention God are a rarity, and governments keep a wary eye on “sectsâ€? that stray too far outside the mainstream,” Douthat writes.

But, Europe is itself changing, he writes, thanks to growing numbers of devout Muslims and even Christian immigrants from Latin America and Africa.

Interesting stuff. Will the U.S. and Europe switch places on the religiosity scale. Nah.

But, as Douthat says, “both continents may be drifting into a zone where religious belief is likely to be a persistent source of tension, rather than a commonplace or a curiosity.”

Cardinal Keeler gets ready to hang up his red hat

As Archbishop Edwin O’Brien prepares to take the reigns of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, it’s worth noting that retiring Cardinal William Keeler has long been one of the most visible — and, for many, beloved — Catholic figures in the U.S.

keeler.jpgHe was appointed archbishop way back in 1989 and became a cardinal in 1994.

He’s made his mark in many ways, but especially through his work on Catholic relations with Orthodox Christians and Jews.

The 76-year-old native of San Antonio also oversaw the renovation of Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption.

Keeler is a friendly fellow with a warm smile. Back in the mid-90s, I took part in a religion journalism program at the University of Maryland. On the schedule was a visit to the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

We piled into a bus and headed off. When we pulled up to the curb, who was standing there to welcome us and shake each reporter’s hand?

The cardinal archbishop of Baltimore.

Several reporters on the trip were from the Bible Belt, and they knew much less about cardinals than the prominent evangelists of the day. I remember whispering to a few: “That’s the cardinal.”

Keeler welcomed us to his city and answered a bunch of questions. He was totally relaxed, a down to earth “prince of the church.”

In a “statement”:http://www.archdioceseofbaltimore.org/ yesterday, Keeler said:

In the days and weeks ahead, I will offer Archbishop O’Brien some thoughts about this great Archdiocese and I know that he will be able to count on the truly outstanding priests, deacons, religious and laity that have been so supportive of me in my 18 years of service as the Archbishop of Baltimore.

More on O’Brien’s big day

Check out Rocco Palmo’s “thoughts”:http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/ on the naming of Archbishop Edwin O’Brien as the next archbishop of Baltimore.

In his wildly popular Whispers in the Loggia blog, he remembers O’Brien’s central role in the story of Eugene Hamilton.

Hamilton, a lifelong parishioner of St. Peter’s Church in Haverstraw, became stricken with cancer while studying for the priesthood. His only wish was to become a priest.

Check Whispers to see how O’Brien helped make it happen.

For further information, find a copy of Father Benedict Groeschel’s book, “A Priest Forever: The Life of Father Eugene Hamilton.”

A missions trip to…White Plains

I just got back from downtown White Plains, where I was hanging out with Southern Baptists from Jeffersonville, Ind.

What were Southern Baptists doing there, you ask?

Trying to save souls, of course.

I’ll be writing about them for tomorrow’s Journal News/LoHud.com