Monthly “Compendium:” June-August 2012

We’re continuing to summarize Catholic Conversation posts in “compendium” announcements to help readers more easily navigate to earlier topics. This compendium covers posts from June-August, 2012.

Several contributors continued recurring themes in contemporary U.S. parish life.  Lucas Sharma highlighted his study of St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Chicago to consider  homosexuality and parish life.  Michael Cieslak looked at recent research done in the Diocese of Rockford to highlight the role of complex parish dynamics in promoting stewardship.  Moving from parish to national Catholic life, Michael continued considering the merits of competing methods for estimating the U.S. Catholic population, particularly the use of parish baptismal and funeral logs, the Official Catholic Directory and telephone surveys.

Social justice was another key theme during these months.  As Gary Adler proposed reclaiming a sense of responsibility in individual consumer behavior and discussed its role in local and global social (in)justice.  Brian Starks reflected on a talk that emphasized how one of the fruits of Eucharistic celebration is commitment to the poor.

Linda Kawental and Brian considered several topics surrounding contemporary women religious, including the media popularity of women religious (especially in the wake of the doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious), the lack of lay support for women’s religious vocations, and debates on the success of  LCWR vs. CMSWR vocation recruitment.

A Spending Showdown: American Consumerism vs. Charitable Giving

Black Friday doesn’t seem to be going anywhere as an American cultural phenomenon.  In fact, what used to be a one-day kickoff to the Christmas shopping season on the Friday after Thanksgiving has become a frenzied four-day shopping weekend culminating in what’s recently been dubbed Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year.  This past weekend, many retailers even offered enticing discounts on Thanksgiving evening itself, so that while some families enjoyed pumpkin pie and conversation, retailers like Walmart were processing “nearly 10 million register transactions” and rang up “almost 5,000 items per second.”  With spending estimated at $59.1 billion, up 12.8 percent from last year, its hard not to be unsettled by American materialism. Continue reading

Giving Thanks that CSPRI’s New Report on Catholic Giving is finally published!

CSPRI’s major research report on the Catholic giving gap in the U.S. is now finished.  You can read the full report and find out why religious giving among American Catholics lags behind that of almost all other faiths in the U.S.  Even more importantly, you can find out what our research suggests are the best ways for promoting generosity in Catholic parishes.  The report is also accessible from CSPRI’s home page at

In the weeks and months ahead, I will be publishing additional short “online analyses” here at the Catholic Conversation.  For instance, I will explore differences in likelihood and levels of giving depending on Americans reported approach to giving (e.g., giving spontaneously, giving what they can afford at the time, giving a weekly amount, or giving a percentage of one’s income).  I will also explore differences in giving among self-identified traditional, moderate, and liberal Catholics and examine explanations for why any such differences exist.  If you have a question regarding the topic of religious and charitable giving, please ask it via “comments” and I will see if I can incorporate your questions into my future posts in some way, shape, or form.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Theological Virtues Reunited: Benedict XVI’s Forthcoming Encyclical on Faith

In 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul offers an oft-cited message about the relation between what are commonly referred to as the theological virtues: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  Of the three encyclicals Pope Benedict XVI has written since the beginning of his papacy, two have dealt with theological virtues.  As is evident from their titles, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) in 2006 and Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) in 2007 explored the virtues of love and hope, respectively, while the Pope’s 2009 “social” encyclical, Caritas in Veritae (Charity in Truth), is deeply informed by his previous reflections on these two theological virtues. Continue reading

John Allen speaks of Modern Christian Martyrs

The ICL just finished hosting a conference exploring Modern Christian Martyrs entitled, “The Seed of the Church.”  The conference was outstanding with many excellent talks and engaging questions and discussion.  It was especially striking to attend the conference while much of the rest of the U.S. was focused on the presidential election as this conference sought to bring greater awareness to an issue that is so often overlooked today, especially by U.S. politicians and American Catholics. Continue reading

Authors Meet Critic: Debating New Evangelization and Vatican II Rhetoric

Sarah Moran recently summarized research by Mike McCallion, Ben Bennett-Carpenter, and David Maines on the New Evangelization in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Now, the Catholic Conversation has given Sarah the opportunity to share her critiques of this article and Mike and Ben have posted responses here and here.

I love substantive back and forth that actually clarifies discussion.  Enjoy the debate!

Response to Sarah Moran by Ben Bennett-Carpenter

Thanks to Sarah Moran for the excellent write-up about our article and also the thoughtful and challenging reply.  I’d like to follow up Mike’s comments here with a brief response to Sarah’s appreciation/critique of the article.  As a brief word of background, I tend to come at these discussions with a focus on the rhetorical considerations, with some sensitivity to issues of affect and practice.  Briefly put, I pay special attention to how words are being used in particular contexts.  With that in mind, I want to highlight the terms “traditional,” “the Church”, “individual” / “community”, and “New Evangelization.” Continue reading

Response to Sarah Moran by Mike McCallion

I would like to thank Sarah for her interest in our article on NE and Vatican II Catholics and for writing a thoughtful and respectful response to it.

First, I want to say something non-scientific or at least something that sounds non-academic (although Durkheim, Turner, Bellah, Rawls, Rosati and many others who appreciate the findings in the sociology of emotions and ritual practices might disagree that what I am about to write is non-academic) that the difference we outline between NE and Vatican II Catholics is basically affective or emotional for those involved.  Indeed, it was explicitly stated by one Vatican II professional we interviewed when he/she said simply, “I just get a different feeling from them” (that is NE professionals – see p. 298).  I say this because Sarah is partly right in saying NE professionals have a communal orientation and some Vatican II professionals have an individualistic orientation.  However, I think our data (admittedly it is qualitative and cannot be used to generalize to the church at large and, granted, we did not describe our methodology other than in footnote 2) supports the Vatican II professional’s response “I just get a different feeling from them.”  We admitted in our article that each type has similar characteristics as the other but when speaking, when teaching, when conversing with each other they are clearly different because you just get a different “feel” from each.  We said this to ourselves several times during the research process and wrote “there is a palpable difference” between them in the article.  There is something going on, “I can feel it.” Continue reading