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Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Study puts dollar value of religiously motivated volunteering in the U.S. at $1.2 trillion

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Can you put a dollar value on religion? 

One Georgetown University researcher has attempted something close to it, releasing findings from a study that says organized religion and behaviors associated with it contribute, by one estimate, nearly $1.2 trillion to the United States.

Brian Grim, of the Religious Liberty Project at Georgetown University, unveiled on Sept. 14 findings of a study he conducted with Melissa Grim, of the Newseum Institute, and which analyzed the economic impact of 344,000 religious congregations, "from Adventist to Zoroastrians," around the country.

Depending on which factors one considers, religion contributes $378 billion, by the most conservative of estimates, and up to $4.8 trillion to the U.S. annually, Brian Grim said of the study sponsored by Faith Counts, a nonprofit organization of religious groups, whose aim is promoting the value of faith.

University of Pennsylvania professor Ram Cnaan, who also is program director for the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research at the school, said at the unveiling of the study that while some may consider putting a dollar value on religion a sacrilege, it's important to point out organized religion's benefits to society to balance out news about clergy abuse, extremism, fraud and other ills that are frequently reported on the news and that involve members of faith communities.

It's also important to consider the benefits of organized religion, the study said, when the U.S. seems to increasingly step closer to a more secularized society, such the one painted in the Pew Research Center study "'Nones' on the Rise," about the growing ranks of the religiously unaffiliated.

Cnaan, who said he is not affiliated with a religion, said he believes it's important to gauge, not if religion is important but how much it is important, in terms of its dollar value to society. That's because churches and other centers of worship benefit society, financially and otherwise, through schools, hospitals, charitable institutions, by providing certain social services and volunteer work that help people in need in their local communities.

Think of organizations, Grim said, such as the Knights of the Columbus, 1.9 million members strong, who have provided help to communities in distress, physically and financially, at a moment's notice.

Given increasing secularism, "think of what would happen if everyone in America woke up like me. I'm not religious," Cnaan said, encouraging others to ponder a society in which the many social and financial benefits of organized religion are no longer there because there are fewer or no church members left. Would others pick up the slack?

Grim said there are organizations that are not faith-based that do good works.

"We wouldn't see the good of society disappearing but it would be significantly less," he said.

William Galston, of Brookings Institution's Governance Studies Program, said the $1.2 trillion estimate Grim offered, is the "Goldilocks estimate," not too high and not too low, but consider what it means to have programs, people and services originating from a religious base that contribute to 7 percent of the country's GDP, he said. That's exactly what the study finds if you go by the mid-range estimate, he said.

"It's a sensible number to use as a baseline for national discussion," Galston said.

Cnaan said in his interactions with clergy and religious leaders, he sometimes finds people who are apologetic. But the study shows that they should be proud and should be a boost of confidence to all communities of faith in the U.S., he said.


"I wish I could have gone to every place and every people and say, 'Be proud, you're part of something very big and very important,'" he said.
  • Published in Nation

Pope proposes care for creation as a new work of mercy

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Calling for concrete actions that benefit human life and the environment, Pope Francis proposed adding the care and protection of creation to the traditional list of corporal and spiritual works of mercy. 

As a spiritual work of mercy, the pope said, care for creation requires "a grateful contemplation of God's world," while as a corporal work, it calls for "simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness." 

The pope reflected on the need for an integral ecology in Christian life in his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Sept. 1. 

The message, titled "Show Mercy to our Common Home," reflects on the day of prayer as an occasion for Christians to "reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation" and to thank God "for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care."

Presenting the pope's message at a news conference Sept. 1, Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said the day of prayer follows the example of the Orthodox Church, which initiated the prayer day in 1989. 

Pope Francis' message, the cardinal told journalists, calls on Christians to be "honest with ourselves" and acknowledge that "when we hurt the earth, we also hurt the poor" and thus commit "a sin against creation, against the poor and against those who have not yet been born."

"This means that we must examine our consciences and repent. I realize that this is not the way we traditionally think about sin. These are sins, Pope Francis says, that we have not hitherto acknowledged and confessed," Cardinal Turkson said. 

In his message, the pope said concern for the planet's future unites religious leaders and organizations and draws attention to "the moral and spiritual crisis" that is at the heart of environmental problems. "Christians or not, as people of faith and goodwill, we should be united in showing mercy to the earth as our common home and cherishing the world in which we live as a place for sharing and communion," the pope said. 

Pollution and global warming, due partly to human activity, he said, has turned the beauty of God's creation into a "polluted wasteland" that impacts the world's poor, who have suffered the brunt of "irresponsible and selfish behavior."

"As an integral ecology emphasizes, human beings are deeply connected with all of creation. When we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings," the pope said.

The Year of Mercy, he added, offers Christians an opportunity to experience not only an interior conversion but also an "ecological conversion," one that recognizes "our responsibility to ourselves, our neighbors, creation and the Creator."

The first step on the path of conversion is to reflect on the harm done to creation by lifestyles inspired by "a distorted culture of prosperity," which brings about a "disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary," he said. 

Ecological conversion, the pope said, requires a serious examination of conscience, recognizing one's sins "against the Creator, against creation and against our brothers and sisters," and sincere repentance.

Sincere conversion and repentance are shown by a firm resolve to change course and bring about concrete actions that respect creation, such as energy conservation, recycling and caring concern for others.

"We must not think that these efforts are too small to improve our world. They call for a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread and encourage a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle," he wrote.

A change of course also requires governments to take steps to protect the environment. While praising the adoption of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, Pope Francis called on world leaders to honor their commitments in halting the rise of global temperatures and on citizens to hold them accountable and "advocate for even more ambitious goals."

Pope Francis said that adding care for creation to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy acknowledges human life and everything that surrounds it as "an object of mercy."

"In our rapidly changing and increasingly globalized world, many new forms of poverty are appearing," Pope Francis said. "In response to them, we need to be creative in developing new and practical forms of charitable outreach as concrete expressions of the way of mercy."
  • Published in Vatican

Cleveland diocese educates on ‘Faithful Citizenship’

While Republicans gathered in Cleveland to confirm their nominee and settle on a platform, the Diocese of Cleveland, too, began preparing for the upcoming national election.

As director of the diocesan Social Action Office, Sister of Notre Dame Kathleen Ryan, oversees efforts to educate Catholics in the diocese on “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. bishops’ quadrennial document on political responsibility.

“They (the bishops) make it very clear that we don’t give up any aspect of citizenship to be a Catholic,” Sister Ryan said. “In fact, because we have a values system, we can use it to enhance and influence the democracy that calls for — by its very definition — participation.”

The document reflects on long-held concerns related to abortion and the needs of poor people. It also references emerging issues related to court decisions on same-sex marriage, public policies that impact religious freedom and a rising concern for the environment as climate change affects more people around the world.

An introductory note states that the document is meant to offer “our guidance for Catholics in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy.” The bishops call on Catholics to study the document “prayerfully and in its totality.”

The U.S. bishops at their fall general meeting in November approved revisions to the document. It is longer than its predecessors, issued for the previous presidential election years.

“Faithful Citizenship” draws on the words of Pope Benedict’s 2009 encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”) and Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) and “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.” The revision includes at least 25 quotations from Pope Francis.

“There are Catholic issues and we raise these issues to both parties,” Sister Ryan told Catholic News Service. “We are very anxious to see the platforms of both parties.”

She noted that “Faithful Citizenship” could instruct Catholics active in politics about Church teaching and who in turn might influence the positions of their respective parties.

“Things like Catholic education, Catholic health care, Catholic social services are all an outgrowth of what we do on Sunday,” Sister Ryan said. “The last thing our priest tells us is, ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.’ We are not a worship-only Church.”

The Social Action Office distributes materials, including a CD with other resources, the USCCB’s suggested ways that parishes can educate their voters, and USCCB’s list of what to avoid. Supplied with this information, individual parishes choose activities to reach their members, such as discussion groups and formal presentations.

Before the past two national elections, Father Gerald Bednar, who is vice rector of St. Mary Seminary and teaches theology there, addressed Catholics at well-attended meetings. He described the principles set forth in “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” and he advised attendees to consider factors such as a candidate’s past performance and whether or not a nominee avoids issues or “plays fast and loose with the facts.”

“There is no perfect candidate,” Father Bednar said. “It’s difficult in this election because both candidates have expressed opinions opposed to Catholic principles.”

To give a fair hearing to both sides, Father Bednar recommends that voters read a liberal newspaper, like The New York Times, and a conservative newspaper, like The Wall Street Journal for two weeks and then compare views reported there to Church teaching.

Sister Ryan said the Social Action Office does not overlook the youngest voters. She serves as the diocesan liaison to the Catholic Schools for Peace and Justice network, a longtime fixture in each of the diocese’s 20 Catholic high schools. Representatives in individual schools deliver materials to designated teachers or guidance counselors to use as they choose. Students in schools that hold mock elections, for example, apply the information when selecting candidates.

“In the (Catholic) colleges, we have a similar relationship,” Sister Ryan said. “We have a long history of social action in this diocese, and so we have very good relationships with all these different entities.”

She hopes Catholic voters will familiarize themselves with “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” before the November election.

“I’m very grateful to the bishops for coming out with this document as a way of informing people of the issues that are of importance in our day (and) of their hope and encouragement to be an active citizen,” Sister Ryan said. 

Article written by Jerri Donohue, Catholic News Service.

Read the document: “Faithful Citizenship” 
  • Published in Nation

Franciscan may be Canada’s next saint

Canada owes him the return of the Franciscans, the founding of the country’s largest Marian sanctuary and the development of strong and lasting ties between the French Canadians and the Holy Land. Yet, 100 years after his death and though he might become Canada’s next saint, Blessed Frederic Janssoone still remains largely unknown to many people in Quebec.

Franciscan Father Roland Bonenfant, vice postulator of his sainthood cause, said Pere Frederic’s “first and foremost heritage is the way he developed strong bonds between the Catholics of Canada and the spiritual roots of their religion – namely the Middle East places where Jesus, the apostles and the first witnesses of Christ have lived.”

Born in 1838 in northern France, Frederic Janssoone joined the Franciscans in 1864 and was ordained in 1870. From 1876 to 1888, he was the custodial vicar of the Holy Land, assisting the custos with care of holy places. These 12 years left a strong imprint on him; he developed a deep attachment to the Holy Land as he got more and more involved in its development and renewal. He re-established the Way of the Cross processions on Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa – a first in almost 250 years.  He also built ecumenical ties with representatives of other Christian churches.

In 1888, his superiors sent him to Canada to resurrect the Franciscans and establish the Commissariat of the Holy Land.

“When he arrived here, he was surrounded by the aura of the Holy Land and the aura of the Recollects, who were deeply loved, back then,” said Father Bonenfant. As time went by, Pere Frederic became more and more involved in the spiritual life of the Canadian Church. He contributed to the foundation and the development of a Marian shrine in Trois-Rivieres.

One key aspect of his work often overlooked today are his door-to-door visits to the local people. “He was considerate and had a special connection with the French Canadian families, as well as with poor people,” said the vice postulator.

Local historian Rene Beaudoin also stressed the impact of Pere Frederic’s visits in the Trois-Rivieres region.

“It gave him the chance to build ties with families and to become a popular figure in the region. This has had a tremendous impact,” said Beaudoin, who teaches history at Trois-Rivieres’ Lafleche College.

Over the years, however, the Church has been faced with a challenge: How is the faith of Pere Frederic still relevant, today? The Franciscan and his austere piety were grounded in the Church of his time, but might seem outdated in today’s reality.

“We now live in a thoroughly secular world and in a society that has a tormented relationship with its own history and religious heritage. We’re not trying to adulterate the spiritual journey of an individual such as Pere Frederic. Yet, we try to put forward the aspects (of his spirituality) that are the most universal,” said Oblate Father Pierre-Olivier Tremblay, rector of Our Lady of the Cape Shrine.

Father Bonenfant said he hopes his fellow Franciscan will be canonized sometime in 2017.

“I’m only sure of one thing: His canonization will happen in due time. “He’s somehow special and has an extraordinary stature, as his own personal story is interwoven with the land of Jesus of Nazareth,” he said. “And he’s injected that in the bloodstream of the Canadian people.” (CNS)
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