WASHINGTON (CNS) — As the median U.S. household income declined, more Americans dropped below the poverty line, with Hispanics and children taking a particularly hard hit, according to statistics released Sept. 13 by the U.S. Census Bureau. The bureau's report on "Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010" put the nation's official poverty rate at 15.1 percent for the third consecutive annual increase. It was up from 14.3 percent in 2009. In the first full calendar after the December 2007-June 2009 recession, the real median household income went from $50,599 in 2009 (in 2010 dollars) to $49,445 in 2010. The decline was felt across all races and age groups, among Hispanics and non-Hispanics and native-born and foreign-born Americans. But the data showed that the poverty rate among blacks and Hispanics of any race was nearly identical in 2010, with 27.4 percent of blacks and 26.6 percent of Hispanics living below the poverty line. The poverty rate was 12.1 percent for Asian-Americans and 9.9 percent for non-Hispanic whites in 2010. The poverty threshold for a family of four was $22,113 in 2010. The Census Bureau found that 22 percent of children were living in poverty last year, up from 20.7 percent the year before. In the past decade, the median African-American household income decreased by $5,494, while the median Hispanic household income declined by $4,235. Nearly 10 percent of children under 18 were without health insurance in 2010, a rate that was not statistically different from 2009. But 30.7 percent of Hispanics were uninsured last year, compared to 20.8 percent of blacks, 18.1 percent of Asians and 11.7 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Philadelphia Catholic high schools close due to ongoing strike PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — The Philadelphia archdiocesan Catholic education secretariat announced Sept. 13 that its 17 high schools would close Sept. 14 and not reopen until a settlement was reached with teachers on strike since Sept. 6. The high schools opened Sept. 7 and were staffed by administrators and nonunion employees. The first few days of school were primarily devoted to orientation sessions. In a letter to parents, school officials said continued reduced staffing could jeopardize student safety. They said missed days will be made up when the school year resumes and parents would then receive adjusted school calendars. Both sides in the dispute met Sept. 8, 9 and 11 but were unable to reach an agreement, though the education secretariat's announcement reported "some progress in the negotiations." A statement from the archdiocesan communications' office said the Secretariat for Catholic Education was "making every effort to minimize disruption to the academic year and bring a speedy resolution to the strike. We are anxious for our teachers to return to the classroom as soon as possible." Rita Schwartz, president of the Association of Catholic School Teachers Local 1776, likewise said in a letter to schoolteachers that the union was "working very hard to get the contract resolved and get our teachers back to work." Most of the more than 700 striking teachers voted against the archdiocesan contract proposal presented Sept. 6. "The main issue now and since the beginning has centered on job security," Schwartz told Catholic News Service. Abuse victims seek investigation of pope, top Vatican officials THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CNS) — Several victims of clerical sexual abuse, a U.S.-based organization for survivors and a U.S.-based human rights organization formally asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Pope Benedict XVI and other top Vatican officials on charges they bear a responsibility for the abuse of children by Catholic priests around the world. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and their attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based organization, presented their petition to the court Sept. 13, they announced in a press release. The Vatican press office declined comment. The petition alleges that "Vatican officials tolerate and enable the systematic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world." Along with the petition, the groups filed thousands of pages of documents, including Vatican policies on handling clerical sexual abuse; correspondence from Vatican officials, bishops and accused priests in reference to several specific cases; and copies of reports and policies from individual bishops' conferences in several countries. The petition claims the church leaders who bear "the greatest responsibility" for cases of clerical sexual abuse are Pope Benedict, both as pope and as the previous prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals and former Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state and former secretary of the doctrinal congregation; and Cardinal William J. Levada, current prefect of the congregation. Father Pavone suspended from ministry outside Amarillo Diocese WASHINGTON (CNS) — Father Frank Pavone, one of the country's most visible and vocal opponents of abortion, has been suspended from active ministry outside the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, over financial questions about his operation of Priests for Life. The suspension was made public in a Sept. 9 letter from Amarillo Bishop Patrick Zurek to his fellow bishops across the country, but Father Pavone told Catholic News Service that he was returning to Amarillo and planned to continue functioning as a priest there. "My decision is the result of deep concerns regarding his stewardship of the finances of the Priests for Life (PFL) organization," Bishop Zurek wrote. "The PFL has become a business that is quite lucrative which provides Father Pavone with financial independence from all legitimate ecclesiastical oversight." Bishop Zurek said "persistent questions and concerns" from clergy and laity about how the "millions of dollars in donations" the organization has received are being spent led to the action. The bishop also asked Father Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, to return to Amarillo "to spend time in prayer and reflection." Father Pavone, meanwhile, told CNS Sept. 13 from Birmingham, Ala., where he had been taping programs for Eternal Word Television Network for more than a week, that he planned to comply with Bishop Zurek's request to return to Amarillo. Father Pavone said he was scheduled to leave Birmingham the afternoon of Sept. 13 and meet with Msgr. Harold Waldow, vicar for clergy in the Amarillo Diocese, immediately after his arrival. "Bishop Zurek asked me to go back to the diocese today, which I am doing for a limited period of time," Father Pavone said. "I am going there and my (priestly) faculties are fully intact and I'm in good standing." Priests for Life head is needed for work in Texas, Bishop Zurek says WASHINGTON (CNS) — Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, remains a priest in good standing in the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, said Msgr. Harold Waldow, vicar for clergy in the diocese. Msgr. Waldow told Catholic News Service Sept. 13 that Bishop Patrick Zurek only suspended Father Pavone's ministry outside of the diocese because the well-known pro-life priest is needed for work in Amarillo. Bishop Zurek in a decree Sept. 6 ordered the 52-year-old New York-born priest to return to Amarillo and announced it in a Sept. 9 letter to his fellow bishops. He pointed to "persistent questions and concerns" from clergy and laity about how the millions of dollars donated to Priests for Life are used as the reason for suspending Father Pavone's ministry. "He's here to be obedient to the bishop and try to work with the bishop," Msgr. Waldow said. "He's going to have assignments, and he will be put on our payroll and given health care and other benefits like any other priest of the diocese." For his part, Father Pavone said he planned to return to Amarillo the evening of Sept. 13 from Birmingham, Ala., where he had been taping programs for the Eternal Word Television Network for more than a week. He also planned to meet Msgr. Waldow soon after he arrived. Both Msgr. Waldow and Father Pavone said no meeting was immediately scheduled with Bishop Zurek, who was leaving the diocese the afternoon of Sept. 13 for two weeks. Father Pavone also told CNS he has already explored the possibility of being incardinated in another diocese so he could resume full-time ministry with Priests for Life as soon as possible. "I fully expect that my time in Amarillo, both in terms of this immediate trip and in terms of my affiliation with that diocese is going to be temporary," he said.