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Religion News in Brief

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 11:00 AM

HAMDEN, Conn. -- Major work has been completed on a Vatican-ordered investigation of Roman Catholic sisters in the United States.

Mother Mary Clare Millea, who is leading the review for the Vatican, announced Tuesday that the onsite visits of American women's religious orders have been finished.

The review began in 2008 and was "intended as a constructive assessment and an expression of genuine concern for the quality of the life" of roughly 59,000 U.S. Catholic sisters, according to a Vatican working paper sent early in the inquiry to leaders of 341 religious congregations.

However, some sisters and religious order leaders interpreted the investigation as a prelude to a dressing-down amid claims from critics that many sisters are unfaithful to the church.

The Vatican working paper for the review asks communities of sisters to describe how they respond to members who dissent publicly or privately from church teaching and about the doctrine the women teach. Additional questions cover financial management and efforts to recruit new members. The numbers of U.S. religious sisters has dropped dramatically in the last few decades.

The Vatican office that ordered the inquiry - called an apostolic visitation - is the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Millea, of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, will be writing summaries of the findings that she will send to the Vatican by the end of this year. It's unclear whether the results will ever be made public.

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http://www.apostolicvisitation.org/

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Cuomo meets with Catholic bishops on future of NY Catholic schools

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Archbishop Timothy Dolan emerged from a private lunch with Gov. Andrew Cuomo with quips, quick feet to dance around tough political questions and a pledge to take a new look at the role of Roman Catholic schools.

Dolan wouldn't discuss with reporters any private discussions he may have had about the recent ruckus sparked by a Detroit-based lawyer for the Vatican's high court. The lawyer-blogger had criticized Cuomo for living with his girlfriend, food TV star Sandra Lee.

The New York archbishop says few specifics were discussed with Cuomo.

But he says the governor, who grew up Catholic, is interested in helping Catholic schools flourish because they are cost-effective.

Cuomo proposes deep cuts to nonpublic schools in his budget.

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High-profile Southern Baptist church drops `Baptist' from name

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - One of the most prominent churches in the Southern Baptist Convention is changing its name and dropping the word Baptist.

The Nashville congregation that is now the Two Rivers Baptist Church will become the Fellowship at Two Rivers, effective March 20.

Executive Pastor Len Taylor calls the change an attempt to "reboot" the church, saying its name had been disparaged. Former senior pastor Jerry Sutton left in 2008 because of a dispute that began with the selection of music and ended with a lawsuit over finances.

The church, across a highway from the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, once drew an average attendance of 3,000 and is rebuilding after dropping to a low of around 650 worshippers.

Longtime member Bob Marklein says with people looking for churches online, a search for Two Rivers brings up many entries about the disputes.

Despite the new name, pastors say Twin Rivers remains Southern Baptist and will not water down its message.

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Cranston school board votes to keep prayer banner on display despite possible legal battle

CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) - The Cranston School Committee has voted to keep a prayer banner on public display at a city high school, even if it means a costly legal battle.

The committee Monday voted 4-3 to keep the banner at Cranston West that starts "Our Heavenly Father ..." and ends with "Amen" even though the American Civil Liberties Union has said it will sue if the banner remains. The ACLU says the banner violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

The banner that urges students to do their best has been hanging in the school since the late 1950s. Last year the ACLU asked the school to remove it after getting a complaint from a parent. Students are not required to recite the banner's message.

About 200 people attended Monday's meeting, with most supporting the banner.

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Ex-Jehovah's Witness minister pleads guilty to charge of molesting teenage Phoenix boy

PHOENIX (AP) - A former Jehovah's Witness elder accused of molesting a Phoenix teenage boy 30 years ago has pleaded guilty in the case.

Maricopa County prosecutors said Tuesday that David Clarke Nelson pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual conduct with a minor.

The 63-year-old Clarke will be sentenced April 7.

Nelson was arrested last November by Phoenix police after the victim reported the assaults, which occurred between September and November 1980.

Nelson acknowledged his involvement and the ex-church elder apologized in a phone call to the victim, who was then 14 and now is a married adult, according to police.

Nelson has retired from the church.

© 2011 The Associated Press