PRINCETON, N.J. — Americans' confidence in "church and organized religion" has been on the decline since 1973 and Catholics' confidence in that institution remains lower than that of Protestants, according to the results of a Gallup survey July 12. Forty-six percent of Catholics express "a great deal or quite a lot of confidence" in the church and organized religion, compared to 56 percent of Protestants. The percentages are slightly lower than what Gallup has found in recent years; in 1973, 66 percent said they had a high level of confidence in religion. This latest poll also found Americans' confidence in public schools, banks and television news is at its "all-time lowest, perhaps reflecting a broader souring of Americans' confidence in societal institutions in 2012."
Missy Franklin of the U.S. poses with her gold medal after winning the women's 100 backstroke final at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Center July 30. Franklin is a senior at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., in the Denver Archdiocese.
A scar resembling the shape of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is seen on a tree July 14 in West New York, New Jersey. As hundreds of onlookers and Marian devotees gathered daily around the tree, a spokesman for the Newark Archdiocese called the mark a "natural occurrence" and an opportunity to find deeper meaning in faith.
The Catholic author lives in Newport Beach. Koontz is the author of "Odd Apocalypse," the fifth in a series titled "Odd Thomas," about a young California fry cook who keeps doing battle against the bizarre and malevolent while on a quest to achieve perfect humility.
Harsh political tone
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Nearly eight in 10 Americans say they are "frustrated with the tone in politics today," and nearly three-quarters of Americans say that campaigns have become more negative over the years. Those attitudes were among the responses in a new Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll conducted July 9-July 11. In response, the Knights of Columbus has launched a national, nonpartisan initiative "to give voice to Americans' desire for civility in public discourse. The American people want and deserve civility and a conversation on the issues rather than personal attacks." There's an online petition at CivilityinAmerica.org.
DENVER — Hercules Industries, a manufacturer of heating and air-conditioning equipment that has 265 full-time employees in Colorado owned by a Catholic family, won a temporary injunction July 27 against enforcement of the Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate. Senior Judge John L. Kane Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado said the HHS requirement that employers provide contraceptives, including some abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilizations free of charge to their employees, even if they have objections based on their religious beliefs, has potential for violating the family's religious freedom.
CRS says funding OK
WASHINGTON — Catholic Relief Services said that $5.3 million in emergency funding it provided to the humanitarian organization CARE in 2010 under a U.S. government grant did not violate Catholic teaching. In postings on its website July 20 and July 24, the U.S. bishops' international development and relief agency explained that the money it provided to CARE was specifically used for water and sanitation and food and nutrition programs for poor families in Central America and Africa and could not be transferred to other services which CARE provided.
Home opens on campus
BELMONT, N.C. — The Room at the Inn, a 10,000-square-foot facility that sits on four acres on the grounds of Belmont Abbey College, is believed to be the first college-based maternity center in the United States. Room At The Inn has been assisting women of all ages in the Charlotte area facing unexpected pregnancies for 18 years. Its new facility on the Belmont campus will house up to 15 mothers at a time, providing emotional support and practical assistance to unmarried college women facing unexpected pregnancies.
PHILADELPHIA — Common Pleas Court Judge Teresa Sarmina closed the latest chapter in the clergy sexual abuse scandal in Philadelphia by sentencing Msgr. William Lynn to three to six years in state prison. During the sentencing hearing July 24, after more than two hours of arguments and letters presented from victims and Msgr. Lynn's defense, Sarmina handed down a sentence just shy of the maximum seven years. The former secretary for clergy, who recommended priest assignments to the archbishop of Philadelphia and investigated claims of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, was found guilty of one felony charge of endangering the welfare of a child June 22.
'Right to pray' on ballot
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A proposed "right to pray" amendment to the Missouri Constitution "would affirm each citizen's right to religious liberty and to pray, both in private as well as public settings," said the state's Catholic bishops. "Increasingly, it seems, religious values are becoming marginalized in our society," the bishops said in a statement released by the Missouri Catholic Conference in Jefferson City.
College's suit dismissed
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A federal judge has dismissed Belmont Abbey College's lawsuit against the Obama administration that had challenged the federal contraception mandate, but lawyers for the Benedictine college in Belmont say they will continue the fight. U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg of the District of Columbia dismissed Belmont Abbey's case July 18, saying that the college did not have standing to bring the case to court, nor could it demonstrate it had been harmed yet by the contraception mandate.
Healthy marriage crusade
WICHITA, Kan. — A new Catholic-run Kansas public awareness campaign to promote healthy marriages and relationships also can help build stronger families, said the executive director of Catholic Charities in the Wichita Diocese. "Relationships impact the daily fabric of our society. The services we offer provide tangible tools for individuals that enhance the way they interact with everyone in their lives, not just their spouses or partners," Cynthia Colbert said in announcing the campaign.
Same-sex blessings OK
INDIANAPOLIS — In a decision that could strain relations with the Catholic Church and within its own Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church has approved liturgical resources for the blessing of same-sex relationships. The church's House of Bishops voted 111-41 July 9 in favor of provisional use of the resources until the next General Convention, held every three years.
Religious freedom dispute
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — While they work to defend the U.S. Constitution, some Catholic military chaplains feel that their First Amendment right to the "free exercise" of religion has been called into question. "Many have sacrificed their lives for our freedoms, and of course among the first and the founding freedoms of our country was that of religious liberty," said Auxiliary Bishop Neal J. Buckon of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services. "Does a service member have to forfeit their constitutional right when they put on the uniform?" he asked during an interview with the Catholic Anchor, newspaper of the Anchorage Archdiocese.
— Catholic News Service