News In Brief

New York and Detroit Face Parish Closings

NEW YORK — Two archdioceses have announced plans or recommendations to close dozens of parishes, a response to declining numbers of priests and shifts in demographics.

The New York Archdiocese said March 28 that it is bracing for a major reorganization, recommending the closing of 31 parishes and 14 schools. At the same time, it is considering establishing five new parishes in suburban areas and building several new churches, mostly in regions north of the city, where Catholics have moved over the years. The closings would hit hardest in the southern part of the archdiocese, including Manhattan, said The New York Times. Final decisions concerning the schools will be made by April 24. There is no schedule for final decisions on the parishes.

In Michigan, the Detroit Archdiocese March 29 announced plans to close or merge 16 parishes, most of them in or near the city, under a five-year reorganization plan. Other small congregations in the city and elsewhere will share pastors under the reorganization plan. Cardinal Adam Maida said the decisions were part of a strategic planning process. The changes will reduce the number of parishes from the current 306 to 290, the Associated Press said. Hard hit will be the inner ring of older suburbs, once home to large baby-boomer families now grown and moved elsewhere, reported the Detroit Free Press.


Calls Continue for Suspension of Abortion Drug

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress and representatives of various pro-life groups repeated their calls for a law to suspend use of the drug known as RU-486 because of the deaths of some women who used it to cause abortions.

At a March 29 press conference, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., led calls for a bill called “Holly’s Law” to be put to a vote and passed. The bill is named for an 18-year-old from California who died of toxic shock after taking RU-486.

The Food and Drug Administration in mid-March announced it will hold a public workshop in May to consider further research on the type of illness that has been connected to using the abortion drug. But Smith and others said to delay even that long would put more women at risk. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said the situation is “a classic case where abortion politics trumps women’s lives.”


Illinois Proposal to Set Charity Hospital Care Fails

CHICAGO — Catholic hospital administrators across Illinois are breathing sighs of relief as the state legislative session draws to a close, with no new requirement to provide a set level of charity care — a requirement that could have made it impossible for many institutions to survive.

Catholic and other not-for-profit hospitals had mobilized to oppose Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s proposal to require them to provide charity care equal to 8% of their expenditures or lose their tax-exempt status. Part of the difficulty is making people understand how devastating such a law would be, said Philip Karst, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Health Association. There are 47 Catholic hospitals in Illinois, roughly a quarter of the total.

“The hospitals do provide charity care,” Karst said. “And all of them have reviewed and revised how they do that to make sure they have policies in place.” But none of them can afford to provide charity care at the level Madigan suggested, in part because they are providing so much other uncompensated care, he said.