Print Edition: March 8, 2015
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BY Jim Cosgrove
Newsweek Slurs Opus Dei in Spy Case
NEWSWEEK ONLINE, March 9 — The arrest of alleged spy Robert Hanssen, a member of the group Opus Dei, led the online news magazine to air accusations that the group is “sinister.”
Newsweek wrote, “To some liberal Catholics and disgruntled former members, Opus Dei is at the heart of a spooky and sinister plot to take the Catholic Church back to the Dark Ages.” Other “Opus Dei bashers,” equally unnamed, said that “Hanssen's haughty attitude… was characteristic of Opus Dei's sense of superiority.”
The article also suggested that FBI Director Louis Freeh and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are members of Opus Dei, a rumor the group denied.
Turner Sorry for ‘Jesus Freak’ Comment
NEW YORK POST, March 10 — Media mogul Ted Turner apologized for calling Catholic employees “Jesus freaks,” the New York daily reported.
At an Ash Wednesday gathering of CNN employees, Turner reportedly spotted ashes on the foreheads of a few people, called them “Jesus freaks,” and asked, “Shouldn't you guys be working for Fox?”
After the Catholic League criticized his comments, Turner apologized “to all Christians” for his “thoughtless” remark.
Ads Claim Christ Went Meatless
THE DETROIT NEWS, March 4 — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has launched a new campaign to convince Christians to be vegetarians, claiming inspiration from Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida, the Detroit daily reported.
Cardinal Maida introduced a resolution at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops three years ago, reaffirming abstinence from meat on Fridays. Now, just in time for Lent, the animal-rights group has raised a billboard asking, “What Wouldn't Jesus Do?”
Many Biblical scholars point out that Jesus eats fish in the Bible. As well, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that using animals for food and clothing is acceptable.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit said, “The cardinal introduced the resolution for meatless Fridays for religious reasons, not political reasons.”
‘Designer Baby’ Grows Up
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, March 6 — Doron Blake, the second baby conceived via the “Genius Sperm Bank,” faces heavy expectations that he'll be an intellectual great like his father, the Washington daily reported.
The Repository for Germinal Choice, founded in 1980, collected sperm from Nobel Prize winners and other luminaries. Blake, who is now studying comparative religion at a private college in Portland, Ore., knew his father only as “Batch 28.”
Blake excelled in school and plays three instruments, but he is no proponent of eugenics. “I like having a good brain,” he said.
“But I do not put a lot of stock in genes, and I don't think being smart makes anyone a better person.” And Blake must fight the familiar battles of adolescence: distance from his mother, worries about his first girlfriend.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Foot-And-Mouth Fears Force Church Cancellations
BELFAST NEWS LETTER, March 5 — Low church attendance in Ireland reflects the fear surrounding a recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease there, the paper said.
Masses at churches in the restricted zone in South Armagh were called off March 4. Archbishop Sean Brady said bishops in Ireland could cancel Sunday Masses and that people should not travel to other parishes.
Church of Ireland Bishop Brian Hannon said people in rural areas should not “feel a sense of guilt” about not going to church because of foot-and-mouth disease. He added that it was important to pray for all those affected by the outbreak.
In a statement, Presbyterian Moderator Trevor Morrow expressed his concern for those congregations affected by the scare.
Colombian Rebels Demand Ransom for Priest
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, March 5 — The Church in Colombia has revealed that members of the leftist rebel group FARC are demanding a $500,000 ransom for a priest they kidnapped seven months ago, the news service reported.
Father Juan Salvado told reporters the Church had received the ransom demand together with proof that the hostage, Father Guillermo Correa, is still alive. Father Correa's family cannot afford the ransom, and the Church will not encourage kidnapping by paying it, Father Salvado said.
At least 20 Colombians were killed in recent fighting between FARC rebels and right-wing paramilitaries in northwest Colombia. Five civilians died in the clash, which occurred some 250 miles northwest of Bogota. About 50 paramilitaries died in the same area two weeks ago during clashes with the rebel group.
The 8,000-strong Self-Defense Units of Colombia are waging a war to the death with FARC, which has twice as many members and is currently involved in preliminary peace talks with Colombian President Andres Pastrana.
Czech Government OKs Homosexual Partnerships
PLANET OUT, March 5 — The government of the Czech Republic on Feb. 26 approved a bill to create registered partnerships giving homosexual couples most of the benefits and responsibilities of marriage, the homosexual news service reported.
The Czech Chamber of Deputies, which has twice rejected similar bills, will take up the new measure in late August. The Czech Catholic Bishops' Conference council for public affairs announced it will stand aside from what it views as an entirely civil matter, Planet Out reported.
Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky, who headed the Justice Ministry while it drafted the bill, told the news service that the legislation is intended to “fully copy the legal relations arising between married couples,” with both the registry and dissolution processes following the laws governing marriage and divorce.
BY Jim Cosgrove
N.Y. Post: Are We Serious Catholics?
NEW YORK POST, Feb. 26 — In a report from Rome during the recent consistory, Post columnist Rod Dreher said the Pope invited the Church's 44 new cardinals to heroically offer their lives for the Faith.
But in conversations with Dreher, many of the cardinals noted that there are subtler forms of martyrdom than the bloody kind they are now expected to brave, he said.
“William Cardinal Keeler, the archbishop of Baltimore, said the kind of spite Christians face from cultural institutions like the Brooklyn Museum, and the mockery they may endure in defending their faith against insults like ‘Yo Mama's Last Supper’ amounts to a kind of martyrdom. 'there's a marginalization of spiritual and moral values, and a temptation to be quiet in the presence of that, because when one speaks up in the presence of that kind of thing, one suffers,’; Keeler said. ‘Pope Paul VI called that ‘White Martyrdom.’;
“Robert Royal, author of the recently published Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, told me the Pope's words about dying for one's faith may sound strange to contemporary Americans because we falsely associate Christianity with a comfortable middle-class lifestyle.
“‘If you really want to be a Christian in the United States these days, especially a Catholic, you are going to bump up hard against the political system and the media,’ Royal said.
“‘And if that's not happening, you probably are not being a very serious Catholic.’;”
Professor Warns of the Lures of Satanism
VATICAN RADIO, March 8 — In an interview with the radio station, Italian educator Carlo Climati warned that pop music groups, compact discs, magazines and the Internet are luring vulnerable young people into the practice of Satanism.
“Behind certain phenomena there is often a world that is aimed at young people, a bombardment of the young that leads them down bad streets,” said Climato, a professor at Regina Apostolorum Atheneum, run by the Legionaires of Christ in Rome.
“First the young people buy a disc. Then they get interested in a singer, and then, little by little, they want to know more about him or her, and they make contact with the sites of esoteric cults.
“Some young people find in the idea of the esoteric something of the transgression with which they may want, in a certain sense, to ally themselves,” the professor said, “but they do not realize that in this way they become more and more slaves because their behavior certainly doesn't favor thought but rather favors lack of thought.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
More Protestants Wearing Ashes
BOSTON GLOBE, Feb. 28 — It's getting harder to tell Catholics from Protestants on Ash Wednesday, the Boston daily reported.
As Protestant hostility toward Catholics lessens and Americans of many denominations seek ritual, many Protestant churches are beginning to offer ashes on the first day of Lent.
In the Reformation, many Protestants discarded the practice, but some Episcopal and Lutheran churches have returned to the imposition of ashes. More recently, some Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, and even some Unitarian Christian and American Baptist churches have joined in.
Some scholars point to the Second Vatican Council, which spurred Protestants to reform and reconsider their own liturgies, as an explanation. A few mainline Protestant churches are even returning to rituals like foot-washing ceremonies on Maundy Thursday.
When God Is an Obsession
SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, March 3 — Obsessive-compulsive disorders can work their way into any aspect of a sufferer's life — even religion, the Salt Lake City daily reported.
For example, sufferers from scrupulosity are constantly beset by doubts such as: Am I praying enough? Am I praying correctly? One woman said she would travel to several different churches a day so that priests would not realize she had already been to confession that day. Some of those afflicted by scrupulosity also have more common forms of obsessive-compulsion like repetitive hand-washing.
Father Thomas Santa, editor of the 13,000-circulation monthly newsletter Scrupulous Anonymous, based in Liguori, Mo., described the disorder: “Everything becomes a sin, to the point that you're almost paralyzed.” People with scrupulosity often feel that forgiveness or repentance is impossible.
From two to three percent of Americans — as many as six million people — may have obsessive-compulsive disorder. Between 60% and 80% of cases can be treated with antidepressants.
The ‘Gender Revolution’ Continues
U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, March 2 — A new movement casts transsexuals as the next minority to demand civil rights, columnist John Leo wrote.
A&E television's Investigative Reports recently featured the “Transgender Revolution,” and the Los Angeles Times ran a two-day series of sympathetic reports. The city of San Francisco has decided to pay for city employees' sex changes.
But Paul McHugh, director of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University medical school, argued that someone who feels he is a woman trapped in a man's body is analogous to an anorexic woman who feels that she is drastically overweight. “We don't do liposuction on anorexics,” he said. “Why amputate the genitals of these poor men?” He opposed surgery on a healthy body.
The next step after recognizing transsexual “rights,” Leo suggested, is the demand for civil rights for sufferers of apotemnophilia, a mental disorder in which people want healthy limbs amputated. Some bioethicists already compare these amputations to sex changes.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Bosnian Archbishop Asks President to Help Catholics
BRITISH BROADCASTING CORP., Feb. 27 — Bosnian Archbishop Franco Komarica has asked the Bosnian Serb Republic's newly elected president to address the most urgent needs of Catholics in the republic, the news service reported.
Archbishop Franjo Komarica, of the Banja Luka area of Bosnia, urged President Mirko Sarovic in a letter to invite Catholics who fled Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia five years ago to come home. Since the conclusion of the Dayton peace accords in 1996, only 1,343 Catholics of the 70,000 exiled from Banja Luka have returned.
Wrote Bishop Komarica, “As far as we know, to date the Bosnian Serb authorities have reconstructed not at least one house of any Catholic returnee, nor have they helped construct infrastructure in the villages where returnees and displaced people decide to come back.”
Iraqi Archbishop Condemns Bombings
FIDES, Feb. 24 — The head of Iraq's Chaldean Catholic Church condemned the recent U.S.-British bombing of a military facility outside the capital city of Baghdad, the missionary news service reported.
Patriarch Raphael Bidawid, leader of Iraq's 1 million Chaldean Catholics, said he had “no words with which to condemn this use of force against the weak,” which he said reflected a lack of respect for the dignity of the people of Iraq. Two civilians died in the bombing and 20 were injured.
Patriarch Bidawid forecast danger if Western nations continued to use force against Iraq. “I am afraid that if the U.S.A. and Britain continue this way, the whole of the Middle East will be set on fire,” he said.
“The more [Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein] is maltreated the more he is applauded,” the patriarch said. “I appeal to the wisdom and prudence of the governors of these countries: think of the common good which peace can give to all, us and you. If we do not resume dialogue the specter of a war is not improbable and we risk new chaos.”
Hindu Extremists Reject Aid to Earthquake Survivors
RELIGION TODAY, Feb. 23 — Hindu extremists are blocking Christians from giving aid to the victims of India's devastating Jan. 13 earthquake, the Protestant news service reported.
Victims' reports indicate that members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a controversial Hindu nationalist group, are blocking aid from Christians, Christian agencies and other minority religions. The quake struck the northeastern state of Gujarat, a Hindu nationalist stronghold.
“Hindu hotheads are trying to dominate the rescue effort,” said Father Cedric Prakish, director of St. Xavier's Social Service Society. Father Prakish told The Washington Times that after the earthquake struck, he rushed to an understaffed local hospital to help with incoming victims. Instead, he was forced to leave when Hindu volunteers continued to shout at him and jostle him.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Roman Tailors' Busy February
LOS ANGELES TIMES, Feb. 27 — Rome's handful of clergy tailors had a month before the installation of 44 new cardinals Feb. 21 to sew by hand the distinctive attire the cardinals now wear, the daily reported.
The January appointment, the most ever in one batch, sent careful craftsmen such as Michele Ombroso at the Euroclero shop into a frenzy. The outfit, which costs about $1,500, consists of a crimson wool cassock lined in crimson silk, a white apron-like tunic called a rochet topped by a short crimson cape known as a mozzetta, a crimson and gold tasseled cord, a crimson mohair sash and a pair of crimson socks. Atop it all sits the best known accessories, the only ones a cardinal receives from the Pope — a crimson skullcap called a zucchetto and the crown-like biretta, a four-cornered hat with three ridges.
The job wasn't as daunting as it might have been in centuries past, the Times said. The 100-foot trailing cape and the ermine cap were abolished from the cardinal's wardrobe shortly after World War II. Gone too are the silver buckled shoes. The fasteners to hold together the sash that girds the waist have been replaced by Velcro.
Hoosier Shoots for Vatican Post
INDIANAPOLIS STAR, Feb. 28 — Indiana lobbyist Jeffery Drozda is lobbying the Bush administration for the ambassadorship of the Vatican, the daily reported.
A onetime seminarian and Notre Dame graduate, Drozda works as a lobbyist for American Electric Power Co. in Carmel, Indiana.
By ambassador standards, Drozda is a political novice, the Star said, noting that he has no diplomatic experience and has never held elected office. In contrast, the last two U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican were former U.S. Rep. Lindy Boggs and Raymond Flynn, former mayor of Boston.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Alfred Hitchcock and the Confessional
THE MONTREAL GAZETTE, Feb. 25 — A controversial film shot in Montreal, Quebec, returned to the city as part of an exhibit on Alfred Hitchcock's work, the Montreal daily reported.
I Confess was made in 1952, starring Montgomery Clift as a Catholic priest. Clift hears a murderer's confession — and is framed for the murder. He must decide whether to prove his innocence by breaking the seal of the confessional.
The film was dogged by problems with the two stars and with the Archdiocese of Quebec, which required cuts in the movie that left Hitchcock disgusted. The film flopped, largely because many non-Catholics found it impossible to believe that a priest would lose his life to preserve the seal of the confessional.
A Spy's Piety, a Paper's Bias?
NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE, Feb. 26 — As reporters search for motives behind Robert Philip Hanssen's alleged treachery, the online magazine warned that one newspaper seemed to delight in finding an example of Christian hypocrisy to confirm its own biases.
National Review's writer charged, “One of the cultural Left's articles of faith is that religious people are really hypocrites,” and used as evidence the New York Times Feb. 25 front-page analysis, “Much Piety But Not Polish from Spy Suspect.”
Hanssen was well-known to colleagues as a regular churchgoer and strong anti-Communist. The Times story also reported that Hanssen and his family were “adherents of Opus Dei, an elite conservative Catholic order.”
Asked the National Review, “Could one imagine the paper doing a large take-out on Jonathan Pollard's commitment to Judaism?” Pollard, a former civilian U.S. Navy analyst, was convicted in 1986 of spying for Israel and is serving a life sentence.
Church Battles Seattle's New Environmental Rules
SEATTLE TIMES, Feb. 23 — Seattle Archbishop Alex Brunett has vowed to take his campaign against county environmental laws that would restrict church construction “all the way to the Supreme Court,” the Seattle daily reported.
The laws set size limits for all non-residential buildings in rural areas. The archdiocese wants to add three new churches that would violate the restrictions.
Denver Seminaries Overflow
DENVER CATHOLIC REGISTER, Feb. 7 — The Archdiocese of Denver, with more than 75 men in formation for the priesthood, is facing financial strains, the Catholic weekly reported.
The archdiocese pays each student's tuition, room and board. It has launched an “Adopt a Seminarian” program, in which individuals, organizations and parishes donate the costs of educating one seminarian. Meanwhile, the archdiocese's Radical Awareness of Discipleship program, which offers high school boys a weekend at a seminary, drew a record 45 young men considering the priesthood.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Parliament Poised to Remove Ban on Priests
NEWCASTLE CHRONICLE AND JOURNAL, Feb. 7 — A 200-year-old law banning Catholic priests from becoming members of Parliament is likely to be repealed after a recent vote in the House of Commons, the English daily reported.
Home Office Minister Mike OíBrien said it was time to remove the “archaic” restriction that he said stemmed from “bigoted anti-Catholic legislation.”
Government ministers are eager to rush the Removal of Clergy Disqualification Bill through the Commons before the British general election, expected on May 3. Otherwise, David Cairns, a laicized priest due to run for office as a member of the ruling Labor Party, would be prevented from taking his parliamentary seat, even if elected.
Aristide Reassumes Power in Haiti
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Feb. 7 — Thousands filled Notre Dame Cathedral in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince as Jean-Bertrand Aristide's inauguration as president was blessed in a Mass, the news service reported.
Originally elected president in 1990, Aristide, a laicized Catholic priest, was ousted by the military a year later. He returned to power in 1994 after an U.S. military intervention, and reluctantly resigned from office in 1995 when his five-year term ended.
Aristide faces international isolation after his recent re-election because of widespread suspicion that it was unfair. France and the European Union didn't send delegations to the inauguration to show disapproval over the controversial elections, but the United States sent its ambassador.
NAACP to Push for Sanctions Against Sudan
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, Feb. 7 — Long silent about the enslavement of blacks in Africa's largest country, American black leaders will urge Congress this year to penalize Sudan for its slave trade, the Washington daily reported.
Hilary Shelton, head of the Washington office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, acknowledged that economic sanctions against Sudan would be difficult to achieve, but said his organization has placed the issue on its list of congressional goals.
Sudan's brutal civil war pits the country's Islamic government against Christian and animist rebels in the south of the country. According to Washington-based Human Rights Watch, the Sudanese government organizes militias to abduct black southerners into slavery.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Talk of Cyberspace Patron Revived
THE WASHINGTON POST, Feb. 6 — The Vatican has revived talk of making St. Isidore of Seville the patron saint of Internet users and computer programmers, the Washington daily reported.
Saint Isidore was nominated two years ago but the Holy See did not make a final decision on the matter. St. Isidore lived in the seventh century. He is believed to have written the world's first encyclopedia, the Etymologies, which included entries on medicine, mathematics, history and theology. The book is frequently cited by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae.
Dutch Bishops Lose Euthanasia Battle
L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO, Dec. 31 — The Dutch govern-ment's recent decision to lift penalties on doctors who perform euthanasia came after a campaign against the move by Dutch bishops.
In honor of the bishops' efforts, the Vatican weekly printed a translation of their 1999 letter to the Dutch people, warning them of the dangers of legalized euthanasia. According to the bishops, legal euthanasia will have the following consequences: l “More elements in our society will come to accept euthanasia as normal.” l “Respect for human life will deteriorate further.” l “Confidence in the doctor and in the medical profession will wane.”
Mad Cow Scare Reaches Vatican
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jan. 31 — Europe's mad cow crisis, which is making beef an increasingly rare item on menus across the continent, has reached Pope John Paul II's dinner table, the Pope's butcher told the news service.
The Pope has a household staff of Polish nuns who do the shopping, make up the menu and cook for the Pope, who is known as a light eater with a preference for meat.
“Last week red meat was on the list, this week it wasn't,”s Giulio Lucarelli told the news service.
Lucarelli has a butcher shop in Rome and holds the meat concession at the Vatican supermarket, supplying Vatican officials as well as the Pope. The supermarket is open to Vatican employees.
In general, Lucarelli said, the purchase of red meat has gone down at the Vatican as a result of the mad cow scare but “not as sharply as elsewhere in Italy.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Test-Drive Your Vocation
DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE, Feb. 4 — To attract women to monastic life, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery will let them try sisterhood out for themselves, the Duluth, Minn., daily reported.
The monastery is inviting single women with no dependents to live in the monastery as part of their new Benedictine Associates program. Sister Freida Horak, the monastery's director of vocation ministry, said the program was an attempt to rebuild a “vocations culture.”
The associates will get free room and board, but no salary. They will share the monastery's life of community, prayer and service, for a period ranging from three months to a year. At the end of the year they may choose to renew their “trial run” for another year. They will work in areas like teaching, health care, liturgy, gardening and serving the elderly, infirm and poor.
Even as the U.S. Catholic population grows, there are only about 82,000 Catholic nuns, less than half the number in 1965.
Rabbi Honored by Miami Archdiocese
MIAMI HERALD, Feb. 2 — Irving Lehrman, an 89-year-old rabbi who has spent his life working with Catholic leaders, became the first Jew to receive the Pontifical Medal Benemerenti from the Archdiocese of Miami, on behalf of Pope John Paul II, the Miami daily reported.
In the early 1940s, Lehrman worked with Catholics to organize an “interfaith rally for decency” that drew 40,000 people to the Orange Bowl. He defended John F. Kennedy when Kennedy's Catholicism became an issue in his presidential campaign. He also worked closely with former Miami archbishops Coleman S. Carroll and Edward McCarthy, often bringing Jews and Catholics together to fight pornography and bigotry.
In 1987, the rabbi was among the Jewish leaders who received a papal audience; the Pope addressed Lehrman, “Shalom, my brother.”
Lehrman's wife Belle said that her husband has had a “love affair” with the Catholic Church. “In the '50s,” she said, “it was not so common as it is today for Catholics and Jews to work on a common agenda.”
Bishops and Biotech
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, Feb. 7 — Nearly 200 bishops met quietly in Las Colinas, Texas, to discuss the ethical implications of biotechnology, the Dallas daily reported.
For 18 years, the bishops have been gathering at a weeklong session organized by the National Catholic Bioethics Center and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. This year, the conference's workshops included “Frozen Embryos: Theological, Pastoral and Ethical Issues,” and “Ethical Dilemmas Posed by the Genome Project.”
The workshops are led by experts in fields like biotechnology, embryology and theology. The conference does not allow media coverage, to ward off the protesters that dog and sometimes disrupt the bishops' meetings. But many bishops were willing to discuss the issues raised with the Morning News.
“If we could use an embryo, a stem cell, to cure Alzheimer's, should we do it?” asked Bishop Charles Grahmann of Dallas. “What about if it meant eliminating two or three human lives in the process?”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Portuguese Priests Prepare Parishioners for Euro
FOCUS, Jan. 29 –– Priests in Portugal have taken it upon themselves to teach the faithful about the launch of Euro coins and notes, the weekly magazine said.
Priests are giving simple advice about the Euro, especially to the elderly and underprivileged, after many people had fallen victim to swindles.
“Don't accept Euros before next year,” Father Horacio Alves Gomes, a priest from the southern Portuguese town of Nisa, was quoted by the magazine as telling his flock. “Don't trust people who say they are bank officials and ask you to change your bank notes for Euros.”
Official Euro-guide leaflets have also been stacked at the entrance to churches, Focus said.
Euro-zone countries are printing an estimated 14.5 billion Euro notes, worth 600 billion Euros ($560 billion), and minting 56 billion Euro coins for the changeover at midnight Dec. 31.
The 12 Euro-zone nations are Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Korean Cardinal Receives Top German Award
AGENCE FRANCE PRESS, Jan. 29 –– The head of the Church in South Korea, Cardinal Stephen Kim, was presented with Germany's highest civilian award for his work in helping German priests escape the country during South Korea's years under a dictatorship, the news agency reported.
German ambassador Hubertus von Morr presented the Great Cross Order of Merit with Star to Cardinal Kim in the South Korean capital of Seoul.
In a presentation ceremony, the ambassador recalled Cardinal Kim's efforts to help German priests and aid workers who were harassed for their human rights work during the military dictatorships that lasted up to the mid-1980s.
Japan Welcomes “Fifth Evangelist”
ST. LOUIS REVIEW, Jan. 12 –– The beauty of Johann Sebastian Bach's music once prompted Swedish Lutheran Archbishop Nathan Soederblom to dub the devout 16th century composer the “fifth evange-list.”
The aptness of that title was defended by papal biographer George Weigel in an article in St. Louis’ archdiocesan newspaper, entitled “A Lutheran's music may help convert Japan.” Weigel reports that over the past decade, between 100 and 200 Bach choirs have sprung up all over Japan, a country Weigel said has traditionally been resistant to the Christian message.
The Christian director of one such choir, Maasaki Suzuki, said non-Christians crowd his podium after performances of Bach's music to talk about taboo subjects like death. “They inevitably ask me to explain to them what ‘hope means’ to Christians,” Suzuki added.
On Good Friday, Weigel continued, thousands of Japanese buy tickets priced in the hundreds of dollars to hear Suzuki's Bach Collegium perform the “St. Matthew Passion.” Suzuki is “convinced,” Weigel wrote, “that tens of thousands of Japanese have been baptized because of Bach.”
Concluded Weigel, “What St. Francis Xavier began, J.S. Bach may, perhaps, help complete. No one knows whether the fascination of Japanese élites with Bach will lead to mass conversions. But a new conversation about Christianity has been started in Japan. Its future course will be one of the fascinating stories of the new millennium.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Highlights Bush Abortion Policy
L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO, Jan. 23 –– The Vatican daily gave prominent attention to President Bush's recent move to prohibit U.S. funding of abortions abroad, making it the top story in its Jan. 22 edition
Vatican Radio also carried the report and broadcast comments by a spokeswoman from the U.S. Bishops Conference in Washington saying that Bush “had the right instincts” and was “going in the right direction” on abortion.
But the spokeswoman, Cathleen Cleaver of the Conference's Pro-Life Secretariat, distanced herself from Bush on the issue of capital punishment. During his six years as governor of Texas, 152 convicts were executed. Cleaver told Vatican Radio that Bush was “far afield on the issue of the death penalty.”
Hackers Attack Vatican Radio Web Portal
IL MESSAGGERO, Jan 26 –– Vatican Radio, the official radio broadcaster of the Holy See, was hacked Jan. 25, causing disruption of the site's service for a short time that day, the Italian daily reported.
The Vatican's press office said that the attack was detected very quickly.
Il Messaggero reported that the hackers are thought to originate from Brazil. Sources suggest that Interpol and the Brazilian authorities are now investigating the hackers, who are known to have attacked other religious sites around the world.
Other hackers submitted information that suggests the Brazilian hacker group carried out a number of attacks on the Vatican Radio Web site.
Iraqi Official Criticizes Embargo During Rome Visit
AGENCE FRANCE PRESS, Jan 25 –– Iraqi Health Minister Umid Medhat Mubarak said during a recent trip to Italy that a UN embargo against Iraq has caused a dramatic increase in illnesses, partly due to depleted uranium munitions used during the Gulf War, the news service reported.
Mubarak made the comments at a press conference before meeting with Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran. He said cases of malignant anemia, breast tumors, lung cancers and congenital malformations among the Iraqi population were much higher in 2000 than before the 1991 Gulf War, with the incidence of leukemia up 17%.
Iraq also lacks medical equipment, Mubarak said, explaining that parts needed to repair the equipment were prohibited under the embargo. The Iraqi health ministry said that the UN embargo imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait had caused more than 1.3 million deaths over 10 years.
Father Jean-Marie Benjamin, an Italian priest who organized the conference at which Mubarak outlined his critique of the embargo, said the Iraqi government is “accused of propaganda whenever it speaks” about the embargo.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Tax Break Would Aid Charities, Study Finds
THE ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, Feb. 1 — A new study indicates that President Bush's proposal to give a tax deduction to the 85 million people who do not itemize their tax returns would generate a significant windfall for charities, the Atlanta newspaper reported.
The tax deduction, a component of Bush's faith-based initiative, would trigger an additional $ 14.6 billion annually in giving, up 11.2% from current levels, according to the study.
The study was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Independent Sector, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of more than 700 nonprofits and grantmakers.
The deduction promotes tax fairness and will bring a new set of donors into charity, Sara Melendez, president and CEO of the Independent Sector, told the newspaper.
Said Melendez, “Of all the proposals the president has put forward, this one will have the greatest impact.”
Utah Looks South to Find Priests
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, Jan. 27 — Like many states, Utah faces two challenges, according to the Salt Lake City daily: few priests, and many immigrant parishioners.
The state's dioceses handle both challenges at once by bringing in foreign-born priests, most of them from Latin America.
About 21 of Utah's 70 priests were born outside the United States. The biggest group, seven, hails from Colombia.
The United States is home to about 2,400 foreign priests. About 800 are Irish, the largest group. But many of the newer foreign priests are Indian and East Asian. Archbishop Adam Exner of Vancouver, British Columbia, speculated that people rooted in Asian cultures don't harbor Americans’ fear of long-term commitments.
Grieving Mother's Message 'Too Political'
NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE, Jan. 25 — A mother who wanted to commemorate her child, lost to a miscarriage two years ago, found that her message of love could not be displayed in public, the online magazine reported.
A community group in Marie Cupo's town of Newburyport, Mass., held a fundraiser last year in which residents could pay to have a message carved on a brick in a local park. Cupo paid for a brick inscribed, “For all the unborn children,” in memory of her own loss.
But two residents charged that Cupo's message, like Thomas Savastano's brick, which read “Jesus loves you,” was inappropriate. The city destroyed the bricks.
Mayor Lisa Mead said that Savastano's message violated the separation of church and state, while Cupo's could be seen as violating rules restricting political messages on public property.
Cupo and Savastano are filing suit. Their lawyer argued, “If [the city] opens up the walkway, it can't pick and choose on the basis of the content of the message.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Chiapas Bishop Backs Mexico's President
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jan. 15 –– Mexican Bishop Felipe Arizmendi, whose diocese lies in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, has teamed up with Mexican President Vicente Fox in an effort to stop rebel violence in that area of the country, the news service reported.
Zapatista rebels responsible for the violence have accused the Mexican army of abusing Indians and supporting paramilitary gangs. The rebel group has given only faint praise to Fox's closing of three army bases, and is now demanding the closing of four more bases and the release of about a hundred imprisoned rebels as a precondition to peace talks.
Speaking in the Chiapas city of San Cristobal, Bishop Arizmendi said “they [the rebels] would get more sympathy and support from Mexicans” if they disarmed.
The bishop, considered progressive and a supporter of the rebels’ demands for Indian rights, praised Fox's initiatives.
The Church in Mexico has long expressed sympathy with the demands raised by the Zapatistas, but has said it disagrees with their use of violence.
British and Irish Officials Condemn Bombing
REUTERS, Jan. 12 –– Britain and Ireland have condemned the recent bombing of a Catholic political party's offices that has disrupted the Northern Irish peace process, the news service reported.
The Jan. 11 blast was the latest in a spate of violent incidents blamed on Protestant militants. Police confirmed that a homemade pipe bomb was used. It has been a favorite device of pro-British “loyalist” militias during 30 years of conflict.
The attack damaged offices of the Social Democratic and Labor Party.
Ireland's Prime Minister Bertie Ahern branded the nighttime bombing as “an attack on democracy in Northern Ireland.”
Said Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson, “All violence is to be deplored but particularly an attack on an elected representative.”
Koreans to Commemorate Catholic Martyrs
THE KOREA HERALD, Jan. 15 –– Korean Catholics will commemorate the persecution of their ancestors in a series of events scheduled for early February, the Seoul daily reported.
In remembrance of the 200th anniversary of Korea's first attack against native Catholics, the local Catholic community will review its own significance in Korean history as well as in the evangelistic history of world religions.
At the center of the Catholic efforts, the paper reported, is a drive to beatify and canonize the martyrs sacrificed 200 years ago in Korea.
As the number of Catholics in the Asian country increased in the late 18th century, Korea's ruling class felt threatened by the Church's power, the Herald said, noting that the equality championed by the faith clashed with the patriarchal feudal ethics of Choson, the ruling dynasty from 1392 to 1910.
The government of Choson declared the establishment of the Church traitorous and began using physical force to oppress it, leading to the first persecution of the Catholics in 1801.
In the Shinyu Persecution that lasted throughout the year, the number of people who died as martyrs is estimated at between 100 and 300.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope and Alexi II to Meet
INTERFAX RUSSIAN NEWS, Jan. 14, 2001 –– A Vatican representative told the news service that a meeting between Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Alexi II of Moscow will definitely take place during the Pope's summer trip to Ukraine. (See story of the trip above)
In a recent interview with an Interfax reporter in Kaliningrad, Archbishop Crescencio Sepe said: “John Paul II is ready to meet with Alexi II even today. But there are certain problems which we are trying to solve jointly with the Orthodox Church.”
Archbishop Sepe was in Kaliningrad to attend a Catholic symposium on the completion of the celebrations in Russia of the 2000th anniversary of Christianity.
The symposium brought together bishops from different parts of Russia and representatives of the Russian Orthodox and Evangelical-Lutheran churches.
Vatican Ambassador on Clinton and John Paul
THE BOSTON PHOENIX, Jan. 18-25 –– Former Boston mayor and Vatican ambassador Ray Flynn has a lot to share about the time he spent at the geographic heart of the Church.
He has already released a fictional story set at the Vatican and will soon issue the memoirs of his time there.
A recent article in the Phoenix provided readers with a glimpse of the upcoming book, which, among other things, details Flynn's well-known rift with President Clinton over Vatican diplomacy.
According to the article, the trouble began in 1994, after Clinton signed executive orders allowing America to fund abortions abroad. Wishing to communicate the Pope's displeasure over this change in policy, Flynn made a request to speak with the president.
Flynn writes that he was rebuffed by Clinton for two days, prompting him to fly to Washington to meet with Clinton personally over the matter.
“White House officials escorted Flynn to Secretary Betty Currie's area outside the Oval Office to wait for the president.
There Flynn sat, nibbling on M&Ms from a bowl in the office, for two days — leaving only late at night to return to his hotel room … ltimately, Flynn persuaded Clinton to call the Pope. But the damage was done.”
As Flynn put it, “There was a certain arrogance on the part of the White House staff.”
Vatican Appoints U.N. Permanent Observer
THE IRISH TIMES, Jan. 18 — The Vatican has named Irish Archbishop Diarmuid Martin Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva, the Dublin daily reported.
Born in 1945, Archbishop Martin served with the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome from 1976, moving ten years later to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He became secretary of that council in 1994.
In U.N.-related work, Archbishop Martin was a senior member of Vatican delegations to international conferences at Rio de Janeiro (1992), Cairo (1994), Beijing (1995), Istanbul (1996) and Rome (1997).
He also led a delegation at the World Conference for Social Development in Copenhagen (1995) and has sponsored meetings on international debt between the World Bank, the IMF and the Council for Latin American Bishops’ Conferences.
Before being named to his current position and being made titular head of the diocese of Glendalough, he was secretary of the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Orthodoxy Draws New Priests
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL, Jan. 10 — What makes a man want to be a priest? Orthodox Catholic teaching, the news service reported.
Father David P. Talley, vocations director of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, said that in his 11 years with the archdiocese he saw the numbers of candidates for the priesthood jump from seven to 58. He attributed the rise to the archdiocese's orthodoxy.
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., is equally known for drawing vocations and for what the wire service called his “traditionalism.”
In monastic life, strict orders like the Discalced Carmelite nuns and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal are attracting more young women and men.
Homer, Marge and God
THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, Jan. 13 — Homer Simpson may not be the most devout character imaginable — but for network television, he's pretty good, the Atlanta daily reported.
A recent study of religion in “The Simpsons” surveyed 71 of the show's 248 episodes. The study found that more than two-thirds of the shows had at least one reference to religion, and more than 10% had significant religious content.
“Simpsons” episodes have featured Bart selling his soul (he gets it back after he prays) and Rev. Lovejoy, the Simpsons’ pastor, regaining his lost love of ministry. Although Homer sometimes belittles church attendance, or says his ideal religion would have “No hell, no kneeling,” “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening pointed out that the characters pray and attend church regularly.
Cop Cleared in Rainbow Ruckus
THE RECORD-EAGLE, Jan. 13 — Traverse City, Mich., has ended its investigation of a local police officer on charges that his opposition to homosexual activism violated the city's anti-discrimination laws, the city's daily newspaper reported.
Traverse City has also revoked its decision to post rainbow bumper stickers on all public vehicles. Many local residents saw the rainbow flag as a symbol of the homosexual movement.
After Officer David Leach spoke against the stickers to a local Christian radio host and to a reporter from the Detroit Free Press about his stance against the stickers, the Traverse City Human Rights Commission opened an investigation into his comments. The city's laws prohibit discrimination based on “sexual orientation.”
Seminaries Draw Few Black Students
MIAMI HERALD, Jan. 15 — Black priests and seminarians are rare in the United States, though some parishes are working hard to change that, the Miami daily reported.
Only about 350 of the country's 47,000 priests are black, and in South Florida's two seminaries, all 10 black students are Haitian-born. Black priests are often Haitian or African.
Hilbert Stanley, executive director of the National Black Catholic Congress, said that this trend would change only after parents begin talking to their children about religious vocations. He said that many black parents want grandchildren so much that they don't encourage children to explore religious life.
The Miami Archdiocese encourages black parishioners to become deacons, because a Church leadership role can help people learn if they are called to the priesthood. Predominantly black congregations often adapt practices of black Protestants, like tent revivals and gospel music. Father George Knab, of the largely black St. Francis Xavier parish, is holding a revival Feb. 5-8 to boost vocations.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Polish Murder Trial Recalls Communism's Grip
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jan. 9 — A former Polish police captain convicted in the killing of a pro-Solidarity priest has testified in support of a communist-era general charged with ordering the murder, the news service reported.
Grzegorz Piotrowski refused to implicate Wladyslaw Ciaston, 75, the former head of the Polish Interior Ministry, in questions surrounding the 1984 murder of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a popular priest and supporter of the Solidarity trade union whose murder shocked the country.
Ciaston was first tried in 1992, after the toppling of communist rule by Solidarity paved the way for investigations into possible involvement of more senior officials. He was acquitted for lack of evidence, but an appeals court later ordered a retrial.
Ciaston could face life in prison if convicted.
Piotrowski, 49, is considered the main perpetrator of the 1984 murder and is the only one of four original defendants still in prison. He is due to be released in August.
Zambia Suspends Pro-Condom Campaign
BBC NEWS, Jan. 11 — The Zambian government has suspended a controversial television advertising campaign that promoted so-called safe sex for youth through the use of condoms, the news service reported.
The move followed fierce criticism from churches who complained after the ads were first aired on state-run television a couple of weeks earlier that they were encouraging promiscuity.
In one scene teen-age girls talk frankly about sex and condoms. In another, how to use a condom is illustrated. The ads aired in prime time, when parents and children traditionally watch television together.
At first the Health Ministry refused to stop the campaign, saying people needed to face up to the reality that Zambia has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world.
But in the face of continued criticism, not only from church leaders but also from government circles, the minister for health, Enoch Kavindele, ordered the ad campaign to be suspended.
Kavindele said it would resume only after the ads had been thoroughly reviewed and offensive material edited out.
Catholic Convert and Philosopher G.E. Anscombe Dies
THE INDEPENDENT, Jan 10 — Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe, a student and translator of Ludwig Wittgenstein and a convert to the Church, died Jan. 9, the London daily reported.
Though Anscombe's parents were not religious, their only son became a priest in the Church of England and she converted to Catholicism.
Anscombe took instruction in the faith, The Independent noted, while an undergraduate at Oxford not long before meeting her future husband, Peter Geach, who was also a convert. They were married in 1941 in the Brompton Oratory with only two witnesses present.
After graduating from Oxford, Anscombe was elected to a research fellowship at Newnham College, Cambridge. It was there, The Independent said, that she first met Wittgenstein. When Wittgenstein died in 1951, he left a will in which he named Anscombe as one of his three literary executors.
BY Jim Cosgrove
N.Y. Times Ambivalent on Jubilee Marketing
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Jan. 8 — A widespread misconception of the Vatican — that it's bursting with riches — was recently undermined in the pages of the New York daily.
In an article highlighting the Vatican's success at harmonizing technological and marketing know-how during Jubilee 2000, the Times conceded that for many years prior to a 1990 financial reorganization, the Church was cash-strapped.
Eager to seize on the perceived hypocrisy of a financial turnaround, the article went on to note that through a new licensing agreement the Vatican now keeps itself in the black by selling objects as varied as ceremonial baby clothes to gold-leaf reproductions of Ptolemy's celestial charts.
Buried in this story on what the Times refers to as the Church's new money-making “strategy” was the fact that all proceeds from Jubilee-related products such as Internet stations, satellite hookups, corporate sponsor logos and Jubilee souvenirs, went to charity.
“The marketing was so successful,” the Times said, “that when Pope John Paul II formally ended the Holy Year by closing the Holy Door to St. Peter's, he announced that profits earned by the Jubilee organizing committee would be donated to charity.”
“It is important that such an important religious event be completely dissociated from any semblance of financial gain,” the Pope said. (See full story, this page)
Italian Exorcists Busy During Holy Year
MAXIM, Jan. 8 — Half a million Italians — out of a total of 57 million — sought an exorcist's help to expel evil spirits during the Holy Year, a poll by the Italian monthly magazine found.
In an accompanying article, Maxim editors noted that while genuine possessions made up only 1% of the reported cases, three Italians out of four believe that the devil is at work in such cases.
The magazine polled 896 people between the ages of 20 and 65. Sixty-five percent of the respondents were women and 20% minors. The Vatican officially recognizes 400 exorcists in Italy, Maxim said.
Though Christ gave his apostles authority to perform exorcisms, no specific formula for the rite was promulgated until the end of the fourth century. As early as 251, during the pontificate of Pope Cornelius, the minor order of exorcist was established.
An exorcist's manual of 1614 is soon to be translated into Italian by the Vatican after a 1999 revision took into account developments in psychiatry.
Unlike the seven sacraments, which bring about the grace they signify, exorcism is a sacramental, meaning it does not infallibly produce its intended effect.
French Artist Has Privileged View of Vatican
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jan. 6 — For many, gaining access to the Vatican is a long process, requiring patience and tenacity. But for Parisian painter Noelle Herrenschmidt, closeness to the Pope was won with a sketchpad, the news service reported.
Herrenschmidt has documented the Vatican's inner workings through her craft for two years, concluding her tour of duty soon after Pope John Paul II closed the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica Jan. 6. Herrenschmidt said she doesn't know if the Pope has seen her work.
“I think I will give to the Pope the last drawing,” Herrenschmidt told AP as she headed to the Holy Door to sketch the last thousands of faithful waiting to pass through. “It is for him; it's not a historical drawing.”
So far Herrenschmidt has published two volumes of inside-the-Vatican watercolors, including one dedicated to the Holy Year
According to AP, It took a year of knocking on doors before Herrenschmidt, 60, gained her extraordinary access. She was first allowed inside in 1998 for the 20th anniversary of John Paul's pontificate.
“Every day I ask, ‘May I go on?’ and they say I can,” she said.
Persistent, but polite, as soon as Herrenschmidt finishes sketching a cardinal, she shows him the drawing, then delivers a color photocopy. Herrenschmidt said she has been invited to the Pope's private Masses in his chapel in early morning but was not allowed to sketch. She recreated the scene later from memory.
“I couldn't draw but I could see this holy man, very, very strong when he prayed.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Apology for Slamming Cardinal O'Connor
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jan. 4 — Time Out New York, a weekly entertainment guide that came under fire for listing Cardinal John O'Connor's death as one of the best events of 2000, issued an apology for the item, the wire service reported.
The item appeared in the Jan. 4 issue in a section geared toward homosexual readers.
The note read, “The press eulogized him as a saint, when in fact, the pious creep was a stuck-in-the-1950s anti-gay menace. Good riddance!” Time Out editor Joe Angio said, “We regret the insensitive tone of the statement and apologize to anyone who was offended by it.”
But he stuck by the claim that the cardinal was against homosexuals.
Cop Under Investigation in Rainbow Ruckus
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jan. 9 — A police officer in Traverse City, Mich., is under investigation after he criticized city bumper stickers which some residents say promote homosexual activism, the wire service reported.
After a dust-up that gained national attention, the city dropped the stickers.
The officer, David Leach, was off duty when he spoke against the stickers on a local Christian radio station. The stickers show figures holding hands on a rainbow background. They were meant to foster unity after a series of crimes against blacks and homosexuals, and would have been posted on every city vehicle, including police cars, and given away to private citizens.
Many homosexual groups use the rainbow flag as a symbol of homosexual activism. Officer Leach told the Associated Press that the rainbow “is a sign of the homosexual and it's on my patrol car.”
The city's Human Rights Commission is now investigating him to determine whether his comments violated the city's anti-discrimination policy, which recently added “sexual orientation” to a list of protected categories.
Catholics and Episcoplalians Seek Vocations Together
CINCINNATI POST, Jan. 9 — The Catholic and Episcopal dioceses of Cincinnati are both making strong efforts to seek young candidates for the priesthood, the Cincinnati daily reported.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has two recruiting ads on television. One spot features a diocesan priest talking about his experiences, and the other shows priests in action.
The Episcopal priest search began earlier and is already showing some success. The diocese assigns interested high school and college students to a congregation and a priest-mentor for eight weeks. The diocese also encourages priests to seek out interested young people, and plans to expand its campus ministry, matching congregations with local colleges.
One of the four students who participated in the Episcopalian program last summer is now in seminary, and 10 students have already expressed an interest in this year's program.
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