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Abuse Costs Up, Allegations Down. In 2007, U.S. dioceses and religious orders paid more than $615 million in legal fees, therapy for victims and support for offenders, according to a report released by the U.S. Bishops Conference. There were 599 credible new allegations made in 2007, compared with 635 in 2006, 695 in 2005 and 898 in 2004, the first year of the survey.
(Catholic News Service 3/7/07)

Belleville Priests Ask Bishop to Resign. In March, over half of the active priests in the Belleville diocese signed a statement calling for Bishop Edward K. Braxton to resign, saying: "Because of the bishop's lack of cooperation, consultation, accountability and transparency, it is the judgment of a great number of the presbyterate that he has lost his moral authority to lead and govern our diocese.”  In February, Sr. Jen Renz, regional superior of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ and a member of the diocesan finance council, wrote to Apostolic Nuncio Pietro Sambi asking him to intervene.  Last fall, the diocesan finance committee and a diocesan advisory board protested extravagant expenditures by Bishop Braxton. The bishop spent $10,000 from a fund established for outreach to the sick and elderly to purchase a conference table and chairs for the chancery.  The diocesan finance committee discovered that Braxton also took $8000 from Society of the Propagation of the Faith funds to purchase exclusive Mass vestments and altar linens. The Bishop has since apologized and repaid the money with funds from a private donor.
(Catholic News Service—3/20/08 National Catholic Reporter 5/2/08)

Gorbachev Prays At St. Francis’s Tomb. Former Soviet Premier Michael Gorbachev confirmed that he had become a practicing Christian recently while visiting Assisi to pray at the tomb of St. Francis. The Italian daily “La Stampa” quoted the senior Soviet statesman: “ For me, St. Francis is the alter Christus, the other Christ…his story fascinates me and has played a fundamental role in my life…It was through St. Francis that I arrived at the Church…” (The Tablet 3/29/08)

Ratio of Laity to Priests Rises (Again). According to the 2008 edition of the Vatican Directory (Annuario Pontificio), Catholics worldwide have increased at a rate almost seven times higher than that of priests. There were 16 million more Catholics in 2006, an increase of 1.4 percent, bringing the total Catholic population to 1.31 billion. During the same period the number of priest grew by 851 to 407,262, an increase of only .21 per cent. (The Tablet 3/8/2008)

Camden will downsize 58 parishes, New Orleans 33. On April 3, Bishop Joseph Galante of Camden, NJ announced that he will reduce the number of parishes in the diocese from 124 to 66 over the next two years. He cited a steady decline in the number of priests, and a decrease in Mass attendance.  Camden projects it will have only 85 diocesan priests in 2015, compared to 162 today.  Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans announced he will reduce the number of parishes in that diocese by 33 to 108.  Diocesan planners cited massive damage from hurricane Katrina which stripped the archdiocese of 20 percent of its Catholics, leaving the diocese with $120 million in uninsured flood damage.
(The Philadelphia Inquirer 4/6/08 and National Catholic Reporter 4/18/08)

Ireland Losing Priests. If current trends continue, Ireland could lose two-thirds of its priests by 2028, according to the 2008 Irish Catholic directory. Currently there are about 4750 priests in Ireland but by 2028 there could be fewer than 1500. “It will mean parish amalgamations, it will mean some parishes not having daily Masses… and it will probably mean some parishes not having a Mass every Sunday,”  said Fr. Eamonn Bourke, Dublin diocesan vocations director. (National Catholic Reporter 3/7/08)

In France Priests, Parishes, Sacraments in Decline. The French Church has closed half of its parishes in recent years with numbers of priests shrinking from 41,000 in 1965 to 20,500 in 2006. Only 100 new priests are ordained each year and numbers of baptisms, confirmations and church marriages are all declining. Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, who is the head of the French bishops’ conference, recently said many French priests had “the feeling of being drawn into a vortex where neither the direction nor the purpose are clear -- and still do not see the generation of successors on the horizon.” (The Tablet 4/12/05)

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