Francis effect? Wait till next year

Written by Peter Smith on .

ocd 2014The annual Catholic statistics are in -- but only for the year 2012. So we still don't know if there's a "Francis effect," according to Mark Gray at research central for all things Catholic in this country -- the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

He reviews the latest data in "The Official Catholic Directory Anno Domini 2014," which also landed on my desk with a thud in recent days. (The book may be sturdier.) It includes comprehensive stats on membership, sacramental participation and other spiritual vital signs, submitted by parishes in 2013, when Francis was elected pope amid much anecdotage about his populist manner prompting people to return to church after long absences. But the stats submitted by parishes are from 2012, in the last days of the Benedict XVI era.

But what can we learn from these stats?

In Pittsburgh, most of these numbers are flat or down from the 2013 report. Numbers of Catholics (634,910), infant baptisms (4,818) and confirmations (3,005) are about equal to the year before. But significant declines happened in first communions (5,442, down 10 percent) and church marriages (1,786, down 7 percent), and given the relatively elderly population overall, it's notable that there were 2 percent fewer church funerals (7,453) than the year before. 

Such numbers are hardly surprising for an older, urban diocese in the North or Midwest.

Statistician Gray, taking the national look, says church growth in the Sunbelt, particularly fueled by immigration, has boosted Catholic numbers since the year 2000. The ranks of Catholics overall are up nationally whether measured by parish registration, self-identification or even weekly Mass attendance, which is up by 2.6 million this century.

At the same time, other sacramental participation from birth to death is declining -- baptisms, marriage, etc. Partly, Mr. Gray writes, that could have to do with Catholic immigrants arriving having experienced some sacraments in their homelands.

Elementary Catholic school enrollment, historically a prime force in forming young Catholics, is down, although Catholic college enrollment is soaring. 

Also, numbers are up for men studying for and being ordained to the priesthood -- just not nearly enough to make up for the departures of older priests to death and retirement.

Deacons and lay ministers are increasing, while religious brothers and sisters are declining.

This good news, bad news mix is a national phenomenon. Locally, virtually all numbers are down from early this century.

By the time Francis shows up in Philadelphia next year, as is expected, we'll know whether his early papacy had any immediate effect -- and by that time we'll be wondering whether it's had an enduring effect. But as we close the books on the Benedict era, it's worth remembering that even a charismatic pope can't overcome vast demographic forces such as birthrates and immigration.


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Keep Out

Written by Rob Rogers on .

Once again, the Republicans in Congress are striking the wrong tone on immigration. They come off sounding cruel and xenophobic. I thought they learned their lesson after losing the Latino vote so badly in 2012.

071714 Keep Out

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Ejuan Price lost for season with pectoral injury

Written by Sam Werner on .

News came out this morning that Pitt defensive end Ejuan Price will miss the entire 2014 season following surgery to repair a torn left pectoralis muscle. He was hurt during workouts this week and, according to a release from the school, was set to have surgery today.

This is just the latest in a string of tough-luck injuries for price. He missed the last seven games of last season with a back injury, and needed surgery on his right pectoral that kept him out of the entire 2012 season. In theory, Price will be almost certainly be able to apply for a medical redshirt following the 2015 season and get one more year (because he lost two full seasons due to injury).

For now, though the more immediate concern, from Pitt's perspective, is how to replace Price's unique contributions to the defense. He could line up with his hand in the ground or from a stand-up position and added a lot of versatility to a pass-rush that is trying to figure out how to replace the production of Aaron Donald. In the six games he played last year, Price had 23 tackles, including four tackles for loss and one sack.

Strictly from a depth chart perspective, this further weakens the Panthers at an already thin position. David Durham and Shakir Soto are the starters at defensive end, and Devin Cook is the only backup option with any sort of playing experience. Cook is coming off a knee injury that cost him most of last season, but played in all 13 games in 2012. He's shown flashes, but will probably have to be a somewhat consistent player for Pitt this season. Beyond that, redshirt freshman Luke Maclean will get a chance to carve out a role for himself. He backed up Soto at the strong-side spot during spring, but Price's injury might force him to move around a little bit on defense. The freshmen ends (Rori Blair, Shane Roy and Hez Trahan) might also get some cracks, with Blair having the inside track since he enrolled early and practiced with the team this spring.

In terms of filling Price's more specific niche as a stand-up rush end, the most likely scenario is that Nicholas Grigsby will take on that role. He did that towards the end of last season and during spring, so it was probably going to happen anyways, but this will mean plenty more snaps for him. I also wouldn't be surprised if Price's injury means Grigsby lines up as more of a traditional hand-down defensive end more frequently, too.

Finally, I actually don't think this news will change James Conner's role on the defense very much, if at all. Conner is a running back, first and foremost (and a good one, at that). Whatever role he plays on defense was always going to be determined by the workload he can physically handle, and that's still the case. Unless the coaching staff has a very different vision for Conner's future, I have a hard time believing they'd take a guy that ran for 799 yards as a true freshman and move him to the other side of the ball just to fill a numbers hole. He might have more of an opportunity to play some snaps based on Price's injury, but I don't think it means Conner will become a regular in the defensive end rotation.

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Roger & Me to mark 25 years at Toronto film festival

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .


moore167331 fullMichael Moore will mark the 25th anniversary of his documentary "Roger & Me" with a special screening during the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
The movie, which laid bare the devastation in Mr. Moore’s hometown of Flint, Mich., after General Motors abandoned the city, won the People's Choice Award at TIFF where it premiered. 
The filmmaker, who would later win an Oscar for his 2002 documentary "Bowling for Columbine," calls the anniversary a bittersweet milestone. 
"On the one hand, the film has affected the millions who've seen it and it has strongly influenced what is a now-thriving documentary movement," Mr. Moore said in a press release.
"The fact that 'Roger & Me' is as relevant today as it was 25 years ago is a travesty. Actually, it’s more than that. At least in 1989, there were still 50,000 General Motors jobs left in Flint. Today, there are but 4,000 GM jobs that remain in Flint, the birthplace of General Motors."
Roger B. Smith, GM chairman and CEO and the name of the title, died in November 2007. 
Mr. Moore will introduce the special screening off the documentary and also kick off the TIFF Doc Conference with a conversation moderated by programmer Thom Powers. The festival will be Sept. 4-14, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release a special 25th Blu-ray edition, DVD and digital HD on Oct. 7.
See for ticket packages (titles still to come), an application to volunteer and other details.


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Zlobin: 'When you have one chance in overtime, you need to score' - 07-16-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


Anton Zlobin has a reputation he doesn't deserve.

Fairly or, probably more accurately, unfairly, any Russian hockey player is going to have a reputation of being flighty, aloof or enigmatic. Unfortunately, the mixed histories of superstars such as Ilya Kovalchuk, Ilya Bryzgalov Alexei Yashin and others have created a stigma for any Russian player.

Zlobin has another reputation he has more than earned.

He has shown to be a clutch player in postseason play. In the 2012 Memorial Cup Final, Zlobin scored in overtime to give the Shawinigan Cataractes 2-1 win against the London Knights.

Making his professional debut in 2013-14, Zlobin bounced between the AHL and ECHL during the regular season. In the postseason, Zlobin found a place on a line with Andrew Ebbett and Chuck Kobasew during the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins' run to the Eastern Conference final. Appearing in 15 playoff games, he scored 10 points, including six goals. Three of his goals were game-winning scores including an overtime goal in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Binghamton Senators:

A sixth-round pick in 2012, Zlobin is attending the NHL Penguins' prospect camp this week. Yesterday, he talked about his development, getting used to North America and being considered a clutch player.

How do you assess your first professional season?

"I guess it [went] pretty great. We had a great team. Great coaches. We make a conference final so it’s a pretty good experience for me for my first year in professional hockey."

Was it difficult bouncing between the AHL and ECHL throughout the season?

"I had an injury last year so I missed all the [offseason] camps and I just started to practice at the start of September. I understood I needed to be sent down for a little bit because I needed to come back to my conditioning [levels] and everything. I played pretty good in the [ECHL] and got called back. It’s helped me a lot."

You had a pretty successful individual run in the postseason.

"It’s always fun in the playoffs to play for something, to play for the Calder Cup. Everybody just sticks together. We have a fun time but at the same time it was a tough time. Every game, you play hard."

What was it like going from junior to professional hockey?

"Guys are a little bit smarter, stronger. It’s actually a big step for me from junior hockey to professional hockey right away. It was a tough time but [Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John] Hynes helped me a lot for my conditioning and the system. When I understand the system, it’s easier to play the game."

What has it been like getting used to North America these past few seasons?

"My first year was pretty tough me. I can’t [figure out] any language. No French, no English. It was a pretty tough season for me. I just tried to figure out how to play there. When I got used to it and started to speak English, things [went] better."

Was are the difference between playing on a thinner North American rink versus the wider European rink?

"You have a little more time on a Russian rink. You have a little more time to make a play and every thing. Here [in North America], if you think more than one second, you’re going to get hit or something or miss the play or lose the puck."

Was it difficult to get used to a new culture and new language, especially in Quebec where French is the predominant language?

"Guys and coaches in the locker room tried to speak to me in English and my [billet] family was French. [They] started to learn English and teach me. Guys tried to teach me French words. I understand French words. After two years [in North America], I started to speak English better."

Have you ever considered playing in the KHL in your native Russia?

"No. No. It’s my dream to play in the NHL. Not many guys have a chance to play in the NHL right now. I’m lucky to be here and I’ll try to do my best to make the NHL."

What was it like playing on a line with Ebbett and Kobasew. Each of those guys, especially Kobasew, have spent a fair amount of time in the NHL.

"Oh, it’s a great experience for me. Those guys, it’s unbelievable. [Kobasew] helped me a lot to make a play and make points at the same time. W hen I did a wrong play, we watched the video together, the power-play video and [talked about] what we could do better."

Do you consider yourself a "clutch" player?

"I don’t know. I just tried to play my way. I’m a goal scorer I think so I try to score as many as I can. When you have one chance in overtime, you need to score."

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