Print Edition: Feb. 22, 2015
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BY Jim Cosgrove
Same-Sex Unions and the City
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, Aug. 16 — Same-sex unions have not been faring all that well in America's courthouses and legislatures, but New York City may prove to be an exception. After a raucous debate that nearly led to a city councilman being hauled out of the council's chambers, the city's elected representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill recognizing homosexual “marriages” and “civil unions” from other jurisdictions, the New York daily reported.
Democratic Councilman Simcha Felder was almost ejected when he wouldn't stop arguing against the bill, declaring, “They'll have to carry me out!” after being ruled out of order. He finally stopped objecting after being surrounded by sergeants at arms.
The New York City bill extends legal benefits of domestic partnership laws to visitors to the city and newcomers whose homosexual relationships are legally recognized elsewhere. Currently, Vermont is the only U.S. state to recognize homosexual “civil unions.”
Christine Quinn, one of the bill's sponsors, declared before the debate, “The use of the word ‘marriage’ is done deliberately to make it clear that New York City is going as far as it can possibly go legislatively to recognize lesbian and gay relationships.”
It's unclear whether polygamous unions, slave contracts and other unconventional relationships will also be covered by the new bill.
‘Mother Angelica Live’ — On Tape
EWTN, Aug. 20 — The voice of Mother Angelica has been stilled by a major stroke on Christmas Eve that left her with speech impairment, and for seven months her place has been filled by Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa. But now the Eternal Word Television Network she founded has decided to fill her spot with old episodes from the archives.
“Mother Angelica Live Classic” will begin in September. Doug Keck, vice president of programming and production for the network, said, “EWTN wanted to bring Mother's programs back to her traditional 8 to 9 p.m. (EDT) prime time slot, so the idea of airing ‘classic’ Mother Angelica Live ‘Family Night’ programs in the Tuesday slot is a natural.”
Florida's Scarlet Letter Law Criticized
FLORIDA TODAY, Aug. 18 — Another well-intended piece of government regulation has created unintended consequences, according to Florida Today. A Florida state law designed to protect the rights of fathers of children put up for adoption may well be encouraging abortions because of the severe invasion of privacy it entails in the life of the mother.
The 2001 law requires birth mothers “to publish their names and sexual histories before their babies can be adopted,” Florida Today reported. The mothers must publish ads in local newspapers once a week for four weeks, listing recent sexual partners, in order to notify possible fathers of their children about the adoption.
“I personally think it's a real violation of confidentiality,” commented Betty Gibbens, an adoptions worker for Catholic Charities. “Some of that information is not really appropriate.”
The bill's author, 72-year-old Republican Rep. Evelyn Lynn, has said that she will seek certain modifications of the bill when the next legislative session opens.
One of the eight state senators who opposed the bill, Bill Posey, said, “I don't think a function of government is to issue scarlet letters to its citizens. That's lunacy.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Don't Curse in Zapopan
ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 5 — When in Mexico, watch your language — at least in the western city of Zapopan, whose city council has just adopted a ban on public use of profanity, punishable by fines of up to $400 or a day and a half in jail.
The suburb of Guadalajara passed the law last week, which was proposed by a member of the once-dominant Party of the Institutionalized Revolution (PRI), according to Associated Press.
The law doesn't spell out which “bad words” are forbidden, leaving that up to police, who must determine which words offend “morals and good customs.”
The wire service reported that other Mexican cities have seen proposed bans on miniskirts in municipal buildings and homosexuals in public swimming pools.
Britain's Ban on Catholic Kings
CWNEWS.COM, July 3 — Great Britain's lord chancellor, Lord Irvine, a Catholic convert, doesn't think the United Kingdom needs to permit a Catholic monarch, according to CWNews.
Lord Irvine, addressing the House of Lords, said he did not plan to repeal a law dating from 1701 that specifically prohibits a Catholic from inheriting the throne and a monarch from joining the Church or marrying a Catholic.
Lord Irvine said he saw “no clear or pressing need” to change the law, which was enacted after the overthrow of Catholic King James II in 1688.
While Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose wife is a practicing Catholic, called the Act “plainly discriminatory,” Lord Irvine said the status quo was widely accepted “by leaders of both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. … This is not an issue that troubles people from the Catholic tradition or indeed from most religious traditions. Most people in this country who have a religious belief are full of joy that we have so little discrimination and that there is such a pluralistic and tolerant situation.”
If a future monarch should object to the act, Lord Irvine said, “then the matter would have to be addressed.”
New Priests are Channels of God's Love
FIDES, July 5 — To crown his pastoral visit to Seoul, South Korea, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe conferred the sacrament of holy orders on 43 deacons.
In his homily, the missionary prefect emphasized the Church's teaching that priests are called to be channels of God's love. The priest represents the love of God, who is the Father “rich in mercy” and forgiveness.
“The ministry of reconciliation is first of all for the forgiveness of sins,” he said. “This comes about through the sacrament of confession, but it is also reconciliation in a general sense. That is, harmony among brothers and sisters, reciprocal forgiveness, human collaboration and social peace.”
He reminded the young priests that they had just put their lives in the hands of Christ and henceforth belong only to him and his Church.
“In order to be a visible and authentic sign of this reconciliation, the priest must be free,” he said. “He must not take sides, he must be free of ethnic, social or political ties, even of family bonds. He belongs only to Christ and to the Church, the mystical Body of Christ.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Protests Exclusion From AIDS Conference
CWNEWS.COM, July 9 — Even though more than a quarter of all AIDS treatment facilities in the world are operated by the Catholic Church, representatives from the Vatican were omitted from the 14th world conference on AIDS in Barcelona last week.
Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragan was impatient toward the current approach to AIDS, which stresses condom distribution and “safe-sex” practices. That approach, he told the online news service, has produced “no visible results.” To the contrary, “the number of AIDS victims is rising, in a terribly important trend.”
Wealthy nations hide facts about AIDS, the archbishop accused, by saying that poverty is the main cause of the disease. However, he argued, “Europe and the United States are largely responsible for exporting AIDS to poor countries through sexual tourism and the spread of libertine attitudes.”
The best way to prevent AIDS, the archbishop concluded, is to adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Sexual abstinence and marital fidelity work “with absolute efficiency, which no one can deny.”
Canada Snubs Christ — or at Least His Vicar
CWNEWS.COM, July 8 — Online Catholic news service CWNews.com reported that Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien might not appear to greet Pope John Paul II when he arrives in Toronto to open World Youth Day on July 22.
Organizers heard the bad news from government officials and made their dissatisfaction known. Chretien's spokesmen insisted that this was not intended as an insult, although the head of government traditionally greets heads of state personally. (As ruler of Vatican City, the Pope has that diplomatic status.)
Then the press staff at the prime minister's office backtracked, according to CWNews.com, saying, “No final decision has been made” about the Pope's visit.
The Vatican's Time Machine
FLASHNEWS.COM, July 2 — Another conspiracy theory has emerged, with the Vatican as the villain.
It seems that the Holy See has a time machine, which it will not share with the world. Wireless Flash, a popular culture news service, reported on a recently published book from New Paradigm Books, a New Age publisher. Father Ernetti's Chronovisor: The Creation and Disappearance of The World's First Time Machine, by paranormal journalist Peter Krassa, tells the story of Benedictine Father Pellegrino Ernetti.
The priest claimed he constructed a time machine in the 1950s and used it to witness historic events and rescue lost manuscripts. According to the publisher, Father Ernetti “was a priest and scientist and musicologist, one of the world's leading authorities on archaic music. He claimed to have yoked the insights of modern physics to the ancient occult knowledge of the astral planes to build, in secret, a time machine — the chronovisor. He asserted that, using the chronovisor as his eyes and ears, he had watched Christ dying on the cross and attended a performance of a now-lost tragedy, Thyestes, by the father of Latin poetry, Quintus Ennius, in Rome in 169 B.C.”
So far, the Holy See has not responded to the reports.
BY Jim Cosgrove
High Court Hears Abortion Next Term
THE WASHINGTON POST, July 8 — Having just wrapped up a Supreme Court spring session that addressed a number of tough issues such as school choice and the death penalty, the justices now have three months off. According to The Washington Post, they're going to need the rest, since the fall term is likely to be a rough ride.
Among the cases the justices will face is one concerning pro-life activists and their freedom of expression. In a consolidation of two landmark — some say infamous — cases, Scheidler v. NOW and Operation Rescue v. NOW, the justices will consider whether lower courts overstepped the plain intent of the law when they applied the anti-racketeering “RICO” act to pro-life demonstrators.
In both cases, the pro-abortion group National Organization for Women successfully argued that the national Operation Rescue movement fit the law's description of a criminal conspiracy and won massive, crippling damages against its organizers, including well-known Catholic activist Joseph Scheidler.
The outcome of these cases could determine whether the nonviolent, civil disobedience these pro-life groups used is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
States Revoke Clergy Exemptions for Reporting Abuse
USA TODAY, July 5 — For many years, clergymen of every denomination enjoyed broad exemption from reporting allegations of sexual abuse against minors in some 21 states, according to USA Today. However, that practice is changing in the wake of recent scandals.
Since January, four state legislatures — those of Massachusetts, Illinois, Missouri and Colorado — have made it a crime to fail to report such accusations of abuse to the police, and more states are expected to act soon.
A sponsor of the Illinois bill, state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, said, “The scandal is so far-reaching it was important to make a stand. We have to put in safeguards for the welfare of children.”
Most denominations' leaders have accepted the change in the laws in the wake of revelations about abuse that went unpunished in Massachusetts and other states. Boston Cardinal Bernard Law backed the change in his state's law, and the U.S. Catholic Conference in Dallas took a similar stand.
Marriage Amendment Again Up for Consideration
THE BOSTON PILOT, June 28 — According to the Archdiocese of Boston's newspaper, The Pilot, legislation defining marriage as a heterosexual, non-polygamous union still languishes in the Massachusetts legislature.
When that state's Assembly opened in June, it took “only three minutes” for state Senate President Tom Birmingham, D-Chelsea, “to recess the session without debate or a vote on the proposed Protection of Marriage Amendment,” the paper complained.
The bill would place the amendment on the ballot for approval by voters. In states where such referenda have made it to the ballot – even in liberal states — they have usually prevailed.
To reach the ballot, the amendment must be approved twice by the legislature within two years. However, “if the first vote is not taken before this session ends July 31, the measure will die,” The Pilot warned.
Maria Parker, associate director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, called traditional marriage a fundamental building block of a stable society and asked the legislature to reconsider the amendment.
“Marriage is central to our system of beliefs and basic to family, procreation of children and love between a husband and wife,” she said. “The legislature needs to know that people are angry and that they are willing to thwart democracy in this society.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Washington Red-Faced Over Hostage Botch
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, June 10 — In the ongoing American war on terrorism the Philippines are now the front line, and it is not going quite as planned, reported the Australian Sydney Morning Herald.
On the mainly Muslim island of Mindanao, long the scene of separatist violence, American missionary Martin Burnham, his wife, Gracia, and Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap were taken hostage more than a year ago by bandits of the Abu Sayyaf gang associated with al Qaeda. On June 7, Philippine authorities lost patience with the hostage-takers and employed American expertise and tactics to attempt a rescue — with disastrous results.
Philippine soldiers stormed the Abu Sayyaf camp that day with guns blazing and, authorities admit, probably shot the hostages themselves. In the course of a three-hour firefight, Martin Burnham and Yap were killed and Gracia Burnham was wounded while leading kidnappers escaped. Eight soldiers were wounded, and four rebels were killed.
The Herald reported the Burnhams, who had lived in the Philippines for 15 years and had three young children, were abducted in May 2001 from a resort on the western Philippine island of Palawan, where they were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary.
Australian Leader Supports Catholic Prelate
ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 5 — Australian Prime Minister John Howard has come out in defense of embattled Archbishop George Pell of Sydney, leader of the Catholic Church in that country.
Archbishop Pell has sustained heavy criticism for offering payments to victims of clerical abuse, which Church critics have called “hush money.” Howard called it “unfair” to term these agreements as a cover-up, Associated Press reported.
“The Archbishop impresses me as a strong leader and as a person who has a great deal of integrity,” Howard said, announcing that he would not launch an investigation into the Church, which might “just become an unending witch hunt.”
Archbishop Pell has noted that there was no confidentiality clause in the agreements reached with the families of victims.
From the Army to the Church
ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 6 — The Central American nation of Guatemala — long a scene of fighting between guerillas and the army — is experiencing more peaceful times and is shifting its media ownership to reflect that, the news service reported.
Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo's office announced June 6 that the government would probably shed the army's official television station, channel 5, and transfer it to the Church. “We would like to give it to the Catholic Church as a way for civil society without access to the media to participate,” the announcement said.
According to Associated Press, 70% of Guatemalans are Catholic. Some 26% belong to evangelical churches, which also operate a TV station in that country.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Five Cardinals Join Highest Church Court
ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 7 — Five new cardinals have joined the Apostolic Signatura, the Church's highest court of appeal in Canon Law, which handles such cases as annulments, disputes between clergy and discipline of priests and religious.
The new appointments are Cardinal Edward Egan of New York; Cardinal Jozef Glemp, former primate of Poland; Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, the former Papal Nuncio in the United States; Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani; and the president of the pontifical council for promoting Christian unity Cardinal Walter Kasper.
Make Jesus the Center of Your Personal Life
VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE, June 8 — When Pope John Paul greeted a group of pilgrims from the Italian Archdiocese of Capua, he urged them to try to find Christ “with new ardor, to listen to his voice, he who calls you to a more intense evangelical faithfulness.”
The Holy Father continued: “He asks you to make him present wherever man finds himself alone, rejected or humiliated due to sorrow or violence and wherever people, tired of human words, have a deep desire to be close to God. …[Y]oung people: Do not ever lose pride in being Christians…forge a friendship with Christ …look for what he looks for… behave as he behaved. Jesus must become the center of your life. He helps you to be the ‘salt and leaven’ of your land.”
A Few More Questions for Neocatechumenate Way
CWNEWS.COM, June 4 — While their activities have received extensive encouragement from Pope John Paul, the lay and clerical movement “NeoCatechumenate Way” will not yet have its official statutes approved by the Vatican, reported CWNews.com.
It appeared there were still questions remaining about the role of priests within the group and their relationship to local bishops. The statutes are still unclear, Vatican sources said, about who will exercise authority over the clergy associated with the apostolate.
Work has continued on these statutes, which are necessary for full Church approval of the group, for more than a year. CWNews.com reported that “four successive drafts of those statutes have been produced, and each time the drafts have been sent back for further modifications.”
Three Vatican congregations must approve the statutes before they are published.
Founded in 1967, the Neocatechumenate is active around the world, encouraging Catholics to minister to the poor and dispossessed with their presence and friendship as well as material aid.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Dapper Don Dies — No Public Send-Off
THE NEW YORK POST, June 12 — Most Mafia crime bosses who call themselves Catholic are of the “A&P” variety: they show up at church for ashes and palms, but otherwise they tend to steer clear.
But funerals are an exception. As any fan of Coppola and Scorcese movies knows, Mafia funerals tend to be big, splashy church affairs marked by eulogies that paint the defunct dons as misunderstood avatars of St. Francis.
But the deceased John Gotti won't get that kind of farewell, according to Father Andrew Vaccari, chancellor of the Diocese of Brooklyn. Gotti, the former “capo” of the Gambino crime family who died June 10 in his Springfield, Mo., prison cell while serving time for five murders, will not receive a Catholic funeral, The Post reported.
The Church sometimes denies Catholic rites to “public sinners” to avoid the scandal it might give the faithful.
Coincidentally, the last major crime figure to be denied a funeral Mass was “Big Paul” Castellano, whom Gotti murdered in 1985.
Unlike Castellano, however, Gotti will be allowed a Christian burial in Queens' St. John's Cemetery, which also holds the remains of Carlo Gambino, Carmine Galante, Vito Genovese and Charles “Lucky” Luciano.
The diocese said that the Gotti family will be permitted a private Mass for the dead at a later date.
Baptists Won't Throw Stones on Abuse
ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 11 — Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, who frequently cooperate with Catholics on social and life issues, were markedly charitable in their response to recent clerical scandals, reported Associated Press in its coverage of the annual national meeting of the country's largest Protestant group.
Speakers “warned delegates against passing judgment as Catholic bishops prepare to discuss what to do with sex-offending priests,” Associated Press said, noting that scandals exist in every denomination.
“We shouldn't enjoy this Catholic mess too much,” said one pastor, the Rev. Bobby Welch. “We're waiting on the other shoe to drop, and when it does, don't be surprised if there is more and more within our ranks.”
Father Frank Ruff, the official Catholic liaison to the Southern Baptists, expressed relief and gratitude at the Baptists' response.
“Our dirty laundry is out there for everybody to see — and it's pretty dirty,” he said. “But I think everybody here in leadership knows that there's a fair amount of sexual abuse that goes on in all institutions, in all churches, in all schools, in many, many families.”
NYC Cardinal's Appeal Could Break Records
ASSOCIATED PRESS — The Archdiocese of New York has taken some hits this month, losing both its leading fund-raiser and an auxiliary bishop to accusations of sexual misconduct.
But that isn't closing New Yorkers' wallets to the charitable and educational works of the Church, Associated Press reported.
Church spokesman Joseph Zwilling said that the annual Cardinal's Appeal had raised $13.44 million so far, putting it well on the way to meeting its goal of $15 million — a record amount for the Archdiocese.
Said Zwilling: “I think it will be the most successful cardinal's campaign that the archdiocese has ever had.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
A New Catholic Nation Is Born in Asia
ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 19—Overwhelmingly Catholic East Timor marked a new phase in its history on Sunday as the one-time colony of Portugal celebrated its independence from Indonesia—a majority-Muslim country that invaded 24 years ago and waged a month-long genocidal campaign against separatists in 1999.
As Associated Press reported, East Timor's independence day began with a Mass. Catholic Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, who shared a 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with independence activist Jose Ramos-Horta, welcomed 500 visitors in his garden for the liturgy.
Echoing the bishop's homily, Ramos-Horta said, “My message for this morning's service is peace, tolerance and forgiveness. We are very happy. We are a proud and simple people who deserve peace, who deserve freedom.”
Statesmen in attendance included East Timor's president-elect, Xanana Gusmao, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
The U.N.'s refugee agency has reported that more than 200,000 East Timorese refugees have come back since the end of Indonesia's 1999 rampage in the territory, sparked by its referendum vote for independence.
Australia provides some 1,500 troops of the 5,000 international peacekeepers who shepherded East Timor to independence. The new island nation will sign a treaty with Australia next week, dividing up East Timor's extensive oil and natural gas reserves. East Timor will receive 90% of the revenues from those reserves, which are not expected to start flowing until 2005, Associated Press reported.
In the meantime, the country faces extreme poverty and will be utterly dependent on international aid.
Americans Want a Fair Mideast Settlement
THE ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, May 12—A new national poll suggests that most Americans do not support the hard-line policies of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which have been strongly backed by leaders in Congress.
Bill Maxwell, columnist for The St. Petersburg Times, cited a survey of 801 U.S. citizens, conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, which revealed that 58% of respondents believe the United States should play an “even-handed” role with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The respondents were equally sympathetic toward both sides in the crisis—again pitting public opinion against that of most U.S. senators and representatives,” Maxwell wrote, noting “respondents blame Israelis and Palestinians equally for failed peace efforts.”
The questions were crafted in consultation with both the Israeli Embassy and the Palestinian Mission to the United Nations. Some 75% of those polled said they “closely follow” news about the Mideast.
British Opposition Party Fights Homosexual Adoption Bill
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, May 20—Members of Britain's Conservative Party will attempt to use the House of Lords, the United Kingdom's upper house of Parliament, to block a bill newly approved by the House of Commons that will allow homosexual couples to adopt children, reported London's Daily Telegraph.
The Tories will try to recruit support from more socially conservative Laborites, bishops and nonpartisan Lords, the paper said.
Prime Minister Tony Blair, who often attends Mass with his Catholic wife, joined with other members of parliament in his ruling Labor Party in supporting the homosexual adoption measure.
Conservative peer Lady Young is expected to lead the fight against relaxing the law. She told The Telegraph, “Recent events in Europe show what happens when politicians ignore the voters,” referring to surprisingly strong showings by right-wing parties in France and Holland.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Consoled by Prayers from Around the Globe
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 19—Amid media speculation about his health and scandals besetting some American clerics, Pope John Paul II told a crowd in St. Peter's Square on Sunday that he is consoled in his ill-health by the prayers of Catholics from around the world.
The AP reported on the Mass May 19, the day after the Holy Father's 82nd birthday, noting that he “appeared almost exhausted during a two-hour ceremony to raise five religious workers to sainthood. His head trembled as he said prayers before Communion on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, and his words during the Mass and while reading the homily were so slurred they were often unintelligible.” These symptoms of Parkinson's disease sometimes mask the fact that the Pope's intellect is still extremely active.
While prominent cardinals have speculated on the possibility of papal retirement in the case of a genuinely incapacitated pope, few expect John Paul to step down. This week, the AP reported, he starts a pilgrimage to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria.
Pope Still Seeks Peace for Holy Land and Places
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 17—Last week Pope John Paul II reflected on the recent siege of Bethlehem's Nativity basilica and called for international guarantees of the safety of Christian holy sites, the AP reported.
“I appeal yet again for the international community to take, without delay, the necessary measures to see that the specific statute (protecting) holy places is respected and assuring their true protection,” the Holy Father said.
The Holy See has always sought international involvement in the defense of the sacred sites associated with the life of Christ. As he welcomed the new ambassador from the kingdom of Jordan, a moderate Arab state that maintains good relations with Israel, thr Pope called once again on that state and the Palestinians to renew negotiations for peace.
Algerian Film Director Sends Birthday Best to Pope
FIDES News Service, May 19—Algerian film director Rachid Benhadi, raised a Muslim, sent Pope John Paul best wishes on his 82nd birthday, according to the missionary news service Fides.
“The Pope is a man of great lucidity, extraordinary charisma,” Benhadi said. “Every time he sets out on a journey it means more physical suffering, but what is most important is that his mind is as keen as ever. I sincerely wish the Pope long life and that he may carry on his work with serenity. I hope his health will give him less trouble and a bit of peace!”
Benhadi provided research to the Pontifical Council for Culture for an upcoming film on St. Augustine, the fourth-century bishop of Carthage.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Tough Sell for Book on Peril of Postponed Pregnancy
THE NEW YORK TIMES, May 20—It seems that busy, childless women don't want to read books that depress them—at least not Sylvia Ann Hewlett's Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children.
The New York Times usually reports on books that become best sellers. This week, it ran a story wondering why Hewlett's book was not selling, despite “the kind of publicity authors and publishers usually only dream of”—including the cover of Time magazine and segments on “Oprah,” “Today,” “Good Morning America” and the “NBC Nightly News,” plus stories in The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times.
It seems that “the most talked-about book in America, which raises the specter that women who sacrifice families for careers might wake up childless at 45, is hardly selling at all.” The story puts sales at around 8,000, nationwide. The Times suggests that “the explanation is all too simple: women are just not interested in shelling out $22 for a load of depressing news about their biological clocks.”
The book warns of the pitfalls of career women sacrificing their “prime childbearing years” in the workplace. Even with fertility treatments, Hewlett reported, “only 3% to 5% of women over 40 are able to have children.”
Pat Buchanan Calls for End to Cuban Embargo
THE AMERICAN CAUSE.ORG, May 14—Echoing repeated calls by Church leaders—including Pope John Paul II during his 1998 visit to the communist island—Catholic columnist and longtime cold warrior Patrick Buchanan has urged President Bush to end the U.S. economic embargo against Fidel Castro's Cuba.
The former presidential candidate argued that the embargo served American interests well during the struggle against world communism by forcing Moscow to divert $5 billion yearly to prop up Castro's regime, contributing to “the endless bleeding [that] helped to bring that empire down.”
However, now that Russia is an American ally and no longer supports Castro's increasingly bankrupt regime, it's time for the United States to normalize trade, Buchanan continued. It is true, he said, that Cuba “is a police state, a totalitarian state and its ruler is the same political criminal and America-hater he has been his whole life.”
But one could say the same thing about the governments of China and Vietnam, both of which receive U.S. trading privileges. So, Buchanan argued, it is hypocritical and needlessly punitive of the Cuban people to maintain current policy.
“Embargoes are usually reserved for enemies that threaten the United States,” Buchanan said, concluding that “the Cuban embargo may well be a case where America can truly declare victory and get out.”
District Attorney Issues Warning to Cardinal Mahony
UPI/NEWSMAX.COM, May 17—Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has suffered from less critical media scrutiny than Boston's embattled Cardinal Bernard Law, but it seems that the legal establishment is not so easily deterred.
The cardinal was warned last week by a hand-delivered letter from District Attorney Steve Cooley that he would be hauled before a grand jury to answer questions about sex abuse cases unless he provided the information required by the prosecutor in short order, reported UPI news service.
Two months ago, Cardinal Mahony had made a widely publicized pledge to work along with civil authorities in investigating claims by 36 children of clerical abuse. But as of last week, UPI reported, prosecutors were still waiting for the promised documentation.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Banned Bishop Says Mass by Phone
ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 6—Bishop Jerzy Mazur, a Latin-Rite Catholic bishop from Poland who has been refused re-entry to Russia by that country's government, is saying Mass by telephone for his congregation in Irkutsk, the news service reported.
The bishop's voice is broadcast through the church over loudspeakers, to a congregation, which has been without its pastor since April. Mazur is the second Catholic priest who has been banned from Russia, following the recent ejection of Father Stefano Caprio.
Associated Press traced the heightened tensions between Roman Catholics and the Russian Orthodox Church to native resentment at“the Vatican's decision this year to upgrade four apostolic administrations in Russia to full dioceses.”
Christians Emerge from Hiding in Indonesia
REUTERS, May 6—The pressure has eased for the moment on the Christians of Indonesia, the British news service reported.
In the Christian regions of the Molucca Islands, a weekend of sectarian violence left the city of Ambon a virtual ghost town. Riots on Saturday, May 4, were sparked by the arrest of Islamist leader Jafar Umar Thalib, who may have ties to Osama bin Laden. Two people died and 12 were injured during those protests.
Despite the pause in violence following the weekend's clashes, authorities fear more violence from Thalib's followers, who wish to impose Islamic law on all Indonesians—including the 15% who are Christian, Hindu or animist.
Thalib's arrest was supported by Christian and Muslim clergy alike. A. Polpoke, a leader of Ambon's Muslim clerics visiting Jakarta, said,“Jafar Umar Thalib is clearly against the … peace truce and therefore it is fair enough for him to be arrested.” The Rev. I.W.J. Hendrinks, speaking for local Protestant churchmen, said,“We thank the police.” A spokesman for Laskar Jihad blamed its leader's arrest on U.S. pressure to clamp down on terrorism.
A team of clerics from Ambon visiting Jakarta asked the government not to impose martial law in the Moluccas. Warned Catholic Bishop P.C. Mandagi,“There will be an ethnic cleansing if martial law is imposed.”
Islamist Terror Strikes St. Joseph Festival
CWN NEWS, May 1—Catholics celebrating the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker May 1 were attacked in the village of Notre Dame, near Cotabato City in the southern Philippines, the news service reported. Islamist militants threw grenades into the crowd, killing three and injuring almost 100.
That region of the Philippines has seen sustained terrorist activity by Muslims seeking independence, including several bomb attacks two weeks ago in General Santos City that claimed 15 lives. A man claimed responsibility for those attacks on behalf of the Abu Sayyaf Muslim guerrillas, which according to CWNews is“a group which has been linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pope Creates New Dioceses, Bishops in Ukraine
ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 4—As the Vatican announced its plans to carve two new dioceses out of existing dioceses in Ukraine, in the regions of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia and Odessa-Simferopol, the Associated Press highlighted the tensions this might cause with defensive Russian Orthodox clerics. The AP suggested that papal decisions last winter to raise four apostolic administrations in Russia to the status of dioceses“provoked the ire of the Russian Orthodox Church,” noting that“Pope John Paul II has made improvement in relations with Orthodox Christians a goal of his papacy, but the Orthodox Church has pointed to alleged Catholic poaching for converts as a top obstacle to a papal visit to Russia.”
Pope Recovers from Tensions at Spa
REUTERS, May 5—After the grueling events of recent weeks, including the unprecedented emergency summit with U.S. cardinals, Pope John Paul recuperated and spoke about the quest for a peaceful world, on Italy's exquisite island of Ischia. Reuters New Service cited“bishops who took part in the meetings” as saying that“the Pope was profoundly saddened by the scandal which enveloped the U.S. Catholic Church.”
Reuters highlighted the Pope's appeal for an end to conflict in the Holy Land, quoting his homily and noon address:“It is unshakeable faith which inspires the followers of Jesus in every period of history to think thoughts of peace and open up horizons of forgiveness and harmony,” he said, invoking the Blessed Virgin's intercession, in answer to the“cry for security and peace which rises ceaselessly from so many parts of the world, especially the Holy Land.” Citing divine love as the only force which can reconcile enemies, the Pope said,“This is the love that humanity needs today perhaps more than ever because only love is credible.” Pope John Paul turned 82 on May 18.
Vatican Distinguishes Penance from Therapy
The New York Times, May 2—As the Vatican issued an apostolic letter reminding priests that group absolution is no substitute for private confession, The New York Times noted with surprise“the timing of the letter… given the perception of American Catholics coping with sexual abuse scandals involving priests that it is Church leaders who should themselves be asking for forgiveness now.” In answer to reporters' persistent questions on that theme, Josef Cardinal Ratzinger reported that“American bishops have already decided they will have a day of expiation, probably on the Feast of the Sacred Heart (June 7), which is traditionally a day of expiation for our sins.”
The Vatican letter was accompanied with important observations by Ratzinger, limning the differences between therapeutic approaches to healing the human psyche—however important—and the sacramental acts of penance and absolution.“In psychotherapy, people take upon themselves the burden of deep and often dangerous revelations about their interior lives,” Ratzinger noted.“In the sacrament of penance, one trusts God's merciful goodness in the simple confession of one's own guilt.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
More on Virginia's Apology
THE WASHINGTON POST, May 2—When did the state of Virginia stop forcibly sterilizing people in the name of eugenics? Was it 1929? 1939? Try 1979, reported the Washington daily.
Virginia Governor Mark Warner issued a formal apology May 1 for the state's abusive policy, which began in 1927 and affected at least 8,000 people. The apology came on the 75th anniversary of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld the state's 1924 eugenics law.
A few key facts that don't appear in the Post: At the time, the Catholic Church was one of the few opponents of such eugenics legislation, which was heavily promoted by Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, and eagerly emulated in Nazi Germany, in the name of science and progress.
Involuntary sterilization was aimed, according to model legislation proposed in 1914 by a eugenics group, at “the feebleminded, insane, criminalistic, epileptic, inebriate, diseased, blind, deaf, deformed and dependent,” as well as “orphans, ne'er-do-wells, tramps, the homeless and paupers,” the Post reported. It was practiced by 30 states, and victimized some 65,000 Americans, before being largely discredited after the Second World War.
Sly Stallone Keeps the Faith
ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 7—Sylvester Stallone told the news service that his projected fall television series, Father Lefty, about a street-smart Catholic priest, will not be derailed by the scandals in the Church. In fact, he thinks that America's Catholics have had quite enough negative publicity, and are “looking to exhale.”
Stallone said of the abuser priests, “We know the police are on it, the public is aware of it and they are all being rooted out.”
Stallone created and produced the show, which will star Danny Nucci as an offbeat Miami padre who takes on crime in his gang-infested parish. It's based on the adventures of an actual priest, Father Robert Lefrack, whom Stallone described as “Bruce Springsteen with a collar.”
CBS has not yet scheduled the program, and some have drawn the conclusion that recent scandals doomed it. “People have come up to me and given me their condolences,” Stallone admitted. “They said, ‘Boy, talk about timing. Who wants to see a story about a good priest?’” To which Stallone, creator of Rocky, responds, “Well, who wants to see a story about a punch-drunk boxer?”
Stallone told Associated Press that he is a practicing Catholic, who trusts his local parish priest.
Cardinal Law's Unexpected Defenders
THE BOSTON HERALD, May 8—The Boston Herald has been tracking the coverage of child-abuse cases, and found that embattled Cardinal Bernard Law has unsuspected supporters in Boston's African-American community.
The Herald reported on a meeting of the Boston Baptist Social Union, where Cardinal Law was defended by Black Muslim and Protestant leaders.
“Somebody wants that Church toppled,” warned Don Muhammad, local head of the Nation of Islam. “It has become too powerful in the eyes of some people and they absolutely want to see it toppled. … Do not lose sight of the fact the Catholic Church has done a whole lot of good, and we're about to lose that in this community unless more of us stand up and say what we know is right.”
Gordon Abbott, the Social Union's longtime treasurer, also defended the Church. “I think of the commercial that says, ‘We measure our success one investor at a time,’” Abbott said. “I feel that's the way the rest of us should judge the Catholic clergy—one priest at a time; I think we'd find most of them are pretty good guys.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Le Pen Makes Electoral Breakthrough in French Elections
NEW YORK TIMES, April 22 — Controversial pro-life French nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked observers by placing second in the first round of France's presidential elections, effectively ending the career of Socialist President Lionel Jospin.
Jospin, who finished third and failed to qualify for the run-off election May 2, announced his retirement from public life after the vote.
Le Pen will face Gaullist candidate Jacques Chirac in the second round, which Chirac is widely expected to win easily. But even if he loses, Le Pen's first-round success marks a new era for his long-marginalized National Front.
Le Pen has gained notoriety through his blunt, provocative public statements, such as minimizing the historical significance of the Holocaust. He has also consistently raised the taboo subject of illegal immigration, principally by Muslims from former French possessions in North Africa. Many such immigrants are unemployed and live in vast government housing projects, where crime is a major problem.
Crime and unemployment were major campaign issues and contributed to Jospin's defeat, the Times reported.
Le Pen has also been attacked by French feminist groups for opposing abortion. Virtually alone among major political parties, the National Front favors restricting abortion, using the slogan “Kill the infant, and you kill France.”
Juan Diego's Canonization Highlights Ethnic Tensions
ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 19 — Pope John Paul II's planned canonization July 30 of Blessed Juan Diego, the visionary of Guadalupe, has exposed underlying ethnic tensions that divide Mexican Catholics.
The Associated Press' Mark Stevenson commented that “the debate over 16th century Indian Juan Diego touches on delicate issues of ethnicity, faith, foreign meddling and respect for Indians, and threatens one of the few things that unifies Mexico: national symbols.”
The Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego in 1531 and left behind her image, miraculously imprinted on the Indian's “tilma,” which is now preserved in Mexico City's basilica. Before the apparition, most Indians had rejected as a foreign implant the Christian religion the Spanish conquistadors were trying to impose. But when Mary appeared, with olive skin and a claim to be their protectress, the conquered natives embraced Christianity as their own.
Controversy has flared at the basilica gift shop over the skin color given the Virgin and the visionary. Images of the two are now available in several skin tones, from European white to Aztec brown, to suit a variety of customers.
Colombian Guerrillas Release Kidnapped Priest
EFE NEWS SERVICE, April 22 — Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas released Father Carlos Yepes on April 22, one day after he was kidnapped along with Guillermo Gaviria, the governor of the province of Antioquia, and former government minister Gilberto Echeverry.
When he was kidnapped, Father Yepes was accompanying Gaviria and Echeverry at the head of 1,000 peace marchers traveling from the city of Medellin to the municipality of Caicedo. But FARC guerrillas set up a false roadblock, the news service reported, and took the two government officials and the priest hostage.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pius XII Praised at Holocaust Conference
INSIDE THE VATICAN ONLINE, April 19 — The debate over Pope Pius XII's reaction to the Holocaust may be shifting to favor the wartime Pope, Inside the Vatican reported in its coverage of the 22nd annual Conference on the Holocaust.
The conference, held April 14-15 at Millersville University in Millersville, Pa., featured historians strongly critical of Pius, as well as his defenders. Speakers included James Carroll (Constantine's Sword), Susan Zuccotti (Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy), Jose Sanchez (Pius XII and the Holocaust), John S. Conway (The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, 1933-1945), and almost a dozen others.
David Dalin, a distinguished American rabbi and historian, spoke about Pius' wartime assistance to Jews and described Pius' outspoken denunciation of Nazi atrocities.
Dr. Michael Feldkamp of Germany engaged in a careful rebuttal of the central thesis of John Cornwell's best-selling Hitler's Pope, accused Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII) of engaging in reactionary policies, as Pius XI's Secretary of State, that enabled Hitler to come to power.
Said Inside the Vatican, “As Feldkamp noted, citing unimpeachable evidence from German and Church archives, there is not a shred of truth to these charges, and that, if anything, Pacelli was a moderate realist who was open to progressive thinking, and always pursued a path compatible with an honorable Christian conscience.”
Sign of Hope From Russian Orthodox?
ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 18 — Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, leader of Russia's Latin-rite Catholics, discerned some hope of an ecumenical opening among Russian Orthodox in the recent statements of Moscow Patriarch Alexy II, the news service reported.
Pope John Paul II has long wished to visit Russia, but his proposed pilgrimage there is vigorously opposed by nationalist Russian Orthodox clergy, who regard Catholics as foreign interlopers.
“I have said more than once that I am prepared to meet with the Pope, but it would have to be a meeting that really allows us to solve the problems,” Patriarch Alexy told a Russian paper in mid-April.
That's a hopeful statement, in Archbishop Kondrusiewicz's view. “Before, he said they couldn't meet until all the problems were resolved,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “Now, he's saying they can meet in order to solve the problems.”
God Save the Queen
THE TIMES, April 20 — As Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her golden jubilee — the 50 years since her coronation in 1952 — and mourns the death of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, the Vatican Museum will pay her a special, ecumenical tribute.
The London daily reported that “the museum will host an exhibition on ‘Anglicanism and the Western Tradition’ — the first display dedicated to a non-Roman Catholic denomination in the museum's history.”
The British ambassador to the Holy See, Mark Pellew, came up with the idea after an Italian congratulated him for knowing the “Our Father.”
The Times reported that “the Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev. Stephen Patten, who will open the exhibition, said he hoped it would dispel the view that Anglicanism was ‘a curious eccentricity on the northwestern edge of Europe.’”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Florida Company Gives $1 Million for Parochial Tuition
ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, April 18 — Mike Fernandez, chief executive officer of Physicians Health Care Plans, has offered $1 million to Florida's Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program for low-income children, the Florida daily reported.
The Cuban-born Fernandez was raised in the Bronx, where he went to Catholic schools on scholarship. In gratitude for his own education, Fernandez decided to help other impoverished students attend parochial schools.
Said Fernandez, “People are enTITLEd to choice and options.”
The Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program allows companies to make donations and receive an equivalent tax credit. The program has garnered around $30 million from 15 Florida companies.
Teachers unions and many Democrat politicians want to abolish the program, which they say drains money from public schools, and have targeted some of the companies for protests.
But the Times pointed out that “a recent analysis by the nonprofit Collins Center for Public Policy concluded that the program does not divert money from public schools … [T]he center found that the maximum scholarship of $3,500 is smaller than the amount spent on a typical pupil in the public schools.”
St. Patrick's Rector Calls for Straight Seminaries
ASSOCIATED PRESS, April 22 — On April 21, as Cardinal Edward Egan of New York prepared to travel to Rome along with other American cardinals to consult with Pope John Paul II and his staff about the handling of sexual abuse cases, his regular Sunday Mass was left to the cathedral rector, Msgr. Eugene Clark. Msgr. Clark used that pulpit to offer a stinging analysis of contemporary threats to the priesthood, the news service reported.
The rector reminded parishioners of the Church's teaching that “The tendency to homosexuality is a disorder, not a sin. … But the practice of homosexuality is truly sinful.” American society is “very protective” of homosexual conduct, he said, adding that men with that temptation ought not to be ordained.
Msgr. Clark also discussed reasons why clerical celibacy might be hard to practice in America, pointing to the sexualization of the mass media and suggesting that the United States is “probably the most immoral country, certainly in the Western Hemisphere.”
The remarks sparked controversy in the New York and national press, and on April 22 Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, noted that Msgr. Clark had been speaking on his own behalf. However, Zwilling's quoted remarks did not suggest that Msgr. Clark's comments were in any way at variance with Church teachings
Intact Marriage Is Safest for Women and Children
CULTURE FACTS, April 18 — In its biweekly newsletter, the Family Research Council reported on a study of the incidence of abuse in various family types.
The study, conducted by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, found that never-married women who have children are more than twice as likely to suffer domestic abuse as married mothers. They are also nearly three times as likely to be victims of violent crime.
As well, children living with their mother and a man who is not their father are 33 times more likely to be victims of child abuse than those raised by married, biological parents, the study found. The child abuse rate is 20 times higher for cohabiting-biological families, 14 times higher in single-mother families, and six times higher in step-families.
The study's author, Patrick Fagan, commented: ”It's time for the government to adopt policies that reflect this knowledge and rebuild — rather than undermine — the institution of marriage.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
British Clergy Getting Self-Defense Lessons
THE PRESS ASSOCIATION, Jan. 22 — Responding to an increased threat of violence against members of the clergy, an advocacy group has begun offering self-defense classes to priests, vicars and rabbis, the national news agency of Great Britain reported.
Tae kwon do lessons were being organized by the Amicus union for skilled and professional people.
The union reported last year that church workers were more vulnerable to physical attacks than doctors or probation officers. The research showed that one in eight had been assaulted in the previous two years.
Australian Archbishop Laments Abortion of Handicapped Baby
SUNDAY HERALD SUN, Feb. 3 — Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia, disputed a coroner's ruling in the abortion of a handicapped child. A suicidal 40-year-old woman threatened to kill herself if a hospital did not abort her child after he was diagnosed as having a non-lethal form of dwarfism.
Archbishop Hart complained that the law in Victoria, which prohibits abortion unless a doctor believes it is necessary to protect a woman from serious danger to her life or mental health, seemed to permit ever-widening boundaries for abortion, the Melbourne daily said.
A spokesman for coroner Jacinta Heffey said the aborted baby, at 32 weeks gestation, was stillborn and that the coroner's court only has jurisdiction over reportable deaths. Since there was no birth, there was no death, the spokesman said. Archbishop Hart called that a “serious misjudgment.”
Said the archbishop, “If it is true that our laws do not protect children in such cases — indeed do not even allow a full coronial inquest — there is something seriously wrong with our laws.”
Messianic Groups Reaching Out to Russian Israelis
THE JERUSALEM POST, Jan. 31 — In an exposé of messianic Jewish groups targeting Russian immigrants in Israel, the Jerusalem daily reported the public burning of a copy of the New Testament by a teacher and principal of a Jewish religious school.
The Bible had been given to a student by Jewish Christians who believe that Jesus is the messiah.
The Post that there are an estimated 1,500 adult, Russian-speaking immigrants who belong to messianic congregations. The number of messianic groups in the country has more than tripled in the decade since mass Soviet Jewish immigration began, it said.
A Conservative rabbi who leads a Russian-speaking congregation said that one of the key factors attracting Russian immigrants to messianic groups is the social distance between them and native Israelis.
The U.S. State Department reports that evangelical Christian and other religious groups have complained that police in Israel are slow to investigate incidents of alleged harassment, threats and vandalism committed by an anti-missionary organization.
Ban Abortion, Cardinal Tells South African Government
SOUTH AFRICA PRESS ASSOCIATION, Feb. 5 — Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa, said the government should suspend abortions as a gesture of its seriousness in calling for a moral renewal in society, according to the South African news agency.
Cardinal Napier made the appeal in the church newspaper Southern Cross. Commenting on President Thabo Mbeki's request to religious leaders to help address the nation's “moral decline,” especially in terms of violence, crime and corruption, the cardinal said suspending abortions would demonstrate the government's seriousness about the value of life.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Study Finds ‘Family Planning’ Encourages Sex
THE HERALD, March 5 — Those who promote chastity among adolescents have been saying it all along, but now a British study has confirmed the fact that when you try to reduce teen pregnancies by providing contraceptives, you encourage sexual activity.
Family planning services have had no impact on pregnancy or abortion rates in girls under 16 and may even increase sexual activity, according to the Glasgow, Scotland, daily. A study published in the Journal of Health Economics found that girls in that age group who used “family planning services” were more likely to be sexually active than other teen-agers.
“Family planning seems to encourage more people to have sex which, teamed with a high contraceptive failure rate, can cancel out any gain,” said David Paton of Nottingham University, who led the 14-year, Britain-wide study. His work showed that pregnancy rates fell when access to family planning was temporarily restricted under a 1984 court ruling.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, Peter Kearney, said society ought to suggest that teen-agers should not have casual sexual relationships, and that the government, which freely “moralizes” about alcohol and tobacco use, should not be afraid to moralize about sexuality as well.
Philippine Senators Push Ban on Death Penalty
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, March 13 — Fifteen members of the Philippine senate filed a bill calling for abolition of capital punishment, and the country's top prelate voiced his support for the measure.
Said Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila, “I am very happy to join our senators in this humanitarian step for the sake of our men and women on death row.” The cardinal said the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime.
After a 23-year moratorium on capital punishment was lifted in 1999, the country executed seven convicts by lethal injection. But in 2000, amid appeals from the Church, then-President Joseph Estrada froze executions.
Scottish Parents Worry About Losing Catholic Schools
THE GUARDIAN, March 13 — Though the Catholic archbishop of Edinburgh and 59% of Catholics in Scotland support changes in the school system that separates Catholic children from those of other faiths, a group of Catholic parents is protesting a plan to allow mixing at a new school, the London daily reported.
In Dalkeith, outside Edinburgh, there are plans to replace two rundown high schools, one Catholic, the other nondenominational. They would be rebuilt side by side, each retaining its identity but sharing some facilities, such as a cafeteria and assembly hall. Catholic and non-Catholic students will be able to mix at school for the first time.
The head of a group of 300 parents argues that the plan is part of an agenda to “get rid of Catholic schools by diluting what they are.” In addition, the group is concerned about the way the nondenominational school promotes knowledge of contraception.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Kateri Devotees Hope for Canonization in Toronto
THE GUELPH MERCURY, March 9 — Could this be the year for three canonizations in North America?
Pope John Paul II will canonize Blessed Juan Diego on July 30 in Mexico City and Blessed Pedro de San Jose de Betancur on July 31 in Guatemala.
But the Ontario daily raises the possibility that while he is in Toronto for World Youth Day on July 23-28 he might raise to the altars Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. The Lily of the Mohawks was born in Auriesville, N.Y., and died at the age of 24 in Quebec, after escaping persecution. Her people had rejected her after she converted to Christianity.
Blessed Kateri has been declared a patroness of this year's World Youth Day gathering. Proof of one more miracle due to her intercession is needed for canonization.
Pope Paul Had Letter of Resignation Ready
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, March 7 — Revelations of a letter of resignation Pope Paul VI had written, mean little as regards Pope John Paul II's situation, said one Vatican official.
Pope Paul's former secretary, Italian Archbishop Pasquale Macchi, wrote in a new book that the Vatican II-era Pope prepared a letter of resignation to be used if he became too ill to continue running the Church. Canon lawyers had assured him there were no impediments to a Pope resigning.
The French news agency pointed out that the book came out as “the current Pope is clearly ailing” due to an arthritic knee and Parkinson's disease-like symptoms.
But Cardinal Roberto Tucci, head of Vatican Radio, said the Pope would never resign as long as he could work. Cardinal Tucci, who knows Pope John Paul well after years as organizer of his foreign trips, said the Holy Father is “holding up well.”
“I believe that John Paul II can count on a great internal strength,” he said. “His physique is well used to austerity. But I think that his strongest support is prayer. That's where his strength is.”
The Pope, who turns 82 in May, said he has no intention of stepping down. He joked with journalists last year, “I wouldn't know whom to present my resignation to.”
Russian Duma Hears Debate on Vatican Relations
NTV, March 7 — The tension between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church has spilled over to the Duma of the Russian legislature. A member of the Union of Right Forces party, Vladimir Semenov, urged that Pope John Paul II be invited to visit Moscow.
“Instead of attempting to establish a dialogue with the Vatican, for over a month the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church have shown nothing but hysteria,” he said during a debate broadcast on the Russian television station. “This reaction on the part of the Russian Orthodox Church reminds one of death throes.”
He pointed out that the Pope already has visited many of the former Soviet countries, where the Orthodox Church is also very strong.
But Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, leader of the Liberal Democratic party, replied, “It is the West that is in death throes, where all religions have collapsed and now they are trying to creep in here — to the world's only spiritual land.”
He remarked that if someone wants good relations with the Vatican, “Please help yourself — there are excellent tours to Italy available. … We are a Russian Orthodox country.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
China Censors Bush Speech on Religious Freedom
LOS ANGELES TIMES, Feb. 23 — Hundreds of millions of Chinese saw President Bush on television calling for greater religious freedom in their country, but as far as the official Chinese news agency is concerned, the president never spoke the words.
About half of Bush's speech at a university in Beijing Feb. 22, which was broadcast live, was expunged from the transcript provided by the New China News Agency, the Los Angeles daily reported. Getting the ax were portions of the speech extolling American liberty and urging China to relax its political and religious restrictions.
Also cut were the president's comments about his own faith, his call for an end to religious persecution in China and his wish that Chinese might one day choose their own national leaders.
Russian Mufti Gets on Anti-Vatican Bandwagon
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Feb. 21 — Russia's chief Muslim cleric joined the dispute over the Vatican's decision to make its four administrative districts in the country into dioceses. Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin said during a press conference that the move is an invasion of Russia's “religious space,” the news service reported.
“Historically, the four major faiths of Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism have existed in Russia and have defined its culture and history,” the mufti said. “Any active promotion of an alien ideology may threaten the country's stability and integrity.”
“Alien ideology?” The mufti might wonder if Russia is happy with Islam's own “ideology,” which often supports the need for jihad to spread the faith into historically non-Muslim countries. In fact, in the south of Russia, up to 1,500 foreign fighters remain in the Islamic rebel territory of Chechnya, funded by al Qaeda and other groups, the Christian Science Monitor reported Feb. 26.
Sicilian Town Plans a 'Catholic Rushmore’
THE GUARDIAN, Feb. 27 — A 2,500-year-old Greek theater and temple are not enough for the Sicilian town of Segesta. In order to boost its tourist industry, it is contemplating sculpting a “Catholic Rushmore.”
Nicola Cristaldi, the town's mayor, announced plans for the faces of Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa and Blessed Padre Pio to be sculpted into the red-brown rock of Segesta's hills. He wants the faces to be large enough to be seen from outer space (65 feet high) and enough of a wonder to attract 250,000 visitors annually, the London daily reported.
The $4.3 million cost of the project is to be shared by private investors, the regional government and the nearby town of Calatafimi. But the plan may face opposition from environmentalists, who fear that Segesta's natural beauty will be destroyed, and archaeologists, who want the money to be spent on excavations around the Greek ruins.
Polish Priest Who Saved Jews Dies in Florida
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Feb. 27 — Msgr. Walter C. Bayer, a Polish native who saved Jews during World War II and later taught with the future Pope John Paul II at the University of Krakow, died Feb. 25 at his home in west-central Florida. He was 89.
During the Nazi occupation of Poland, when the priest lost nine relatives, Msgr. Bayer hid about 50 Jews in his house, gave them baptismal certificates and helped them escape to other countries. A German officer searching for Jews broke three of his teeth with brass knuckles.
After the Communist government removed priests from teaching positions, Msgr. Bayer settled in the United States.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Kremlin Meets With Russian Catholic Archbishop
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Feb. 28 — Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz was encouraged by a meeting with the deputy head of President Vladimir Putin's domestic policy department. Invited to the Kremlin in the midst of a Catholic-Orthodox dispute and two days before Pope John Paul II's video link to Russia, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz told the news service that he felt Catholics in Russia had the “full support of the presidential administration.”
“We need to talk and keep talking, on the highest levels,” he said.
The Pope prayed via video link with Catholics gathered in Moscow's Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and elsewhere March 2 (story, next page). AP said he is intent on reaching out to Russia's 600,000 Catholics, a tiny minority in a nation of 144 million, where two-thirds of the population consider themselves Orthodox.
Orthodox leaders have been upset that the Vatican recently upgraded four apostolic administrations in Russia to the level of dioceses. But Archbishop Kondrusiewicz explained that the Church establishes such administrations only in extreme situations and that they are meant to be temporary.
Catholic-Muslim Dialogue Rejects Extremism
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Feb. 27 —Catholics and Muslims meeting at the Vatican said they would try to turn public opinion against extremism in religion.
A committee of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue met with the Permanent Committee of al-Azhar for Dialogue with the Monotheistic Religions. Al-Azhar is a mosque and university in Egypt that is considered to be the leading seat of learning on Sunni Islam.
The Vatican said participants observed how “extremism, from whatever side it may come, is to be condemned as not being in conformity with the teachings of the two religions,” according to the wire service.
“Extremists, particularly religious extremists, can sometimes be sincere in their intentions, yet they tend to see themselves as the only ones in the right and to show intolerance to those who do not agree with them, not accepting others with their differences, tending to violate the rights of others, and sometimes using or approving violence,” the Vatican said.
Former CIA Security Chief to Aid Vatican Security
CORRIERE DELLA SERA, Feb. 28 — Vincent Cannistraro, former chief of counterterrorism operations for the Central Intelligence Agency, has been named a security advisor to the Vatican, the Italian daily reported.
The Vatican press office declined to comment on the report for Agence France-Presse, the French news agency. Cannistraro, who led the investigation into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, reportedly will provide a link between the U.S. intelligence services and the Vatican as part of a post-Sept. 11 security upgrade.
Separately, the Delegation of the Commission of the European Communities issued a statement saying all Italian cities of art are at risk of terrorist attacks and are under surveillance.
Italy is the European country with the highest concentration of masterpieces in the world, the delegation said.
But the Vatican is an even more important “target to defend,” the statement added, saying, “Extraordinary measures have been adopted.”
“Besides John Paul II, a few other prelates now have armed guards,” the delegation said.
In addition, visitors must undergo security checks, plainclothes detectives roam the crowds and the air force conducts constant surveillance from the sky.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Celibacy is Not the Issue, Glendon Argues
THIS WEEK, Feb. 24 — A married priesthood is not the solution to the problem of priestly pedophilia, said Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon.
Glendon made the assertion during a debate with Boston College theology professor Thomas Groome on the Sunday morning ABC News program.
Glendon, a member of the Boston Archdiocese's Social Justice Commission, cited a study by Penn State historian Philip Jenkins that concluded that the incidence of pedophilia is at least as high and perhaps greater in other denominations with married clergy.
“If we look at the example of other churches that have opened the priesthood to women and married clergy, we see that their memberships have declined precipitously,” Glendon added.
She agreed with Groome that a solution must come from a “serious renewal,” including a renewal of seminaries, making them “places where young men would happily go and where parents would happily send their sons.”
“If we look at the Legionaries of Christ, for example ... their seminaries are overflowing, their vocations are flourishing,” Glendon said, referring to the order founded in 1941 and which publishes the Register.
Rabbi Stands Up for Pius XII
COLUMBIA, February —David Dalin, a rabbi and historian, called Pope Pius XII “the closest Jews had come to having a papal supporter” in an article reprinted in the Knights of Columbus magazine.
A new film, “Amen,” by Franco-Greek director Constantin Costa-Gavras accuses the late Pope with silence in the face of the Nazi holocaust. Dalin writes that many of the attacks on Pope Pius constitute “an abuse of the Holocaust that must be rejected.”
“More than any other 20th century leader, Pius fulfilled that Talmudic dictum,” Dalin said, that “whosoever preserves one life, it is accounted to him by Scripture as if he had preserved a whole world.”
Fetal Heart Surgery in Boston Offers Hope
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Feb. 25 — A boy born last November became the first baby in the United States to be cured prior to birth of a fatal heart condition, thanks to a pioneering fetal surgery technique, the New York daily reported.
The doctors, who performed the surgery at Children's Hospital in Boston, believe that by opening a pinched valve during the 23rd week of pregnancy, they prevented hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
The disease causes the left ventricle, the heart's main pumping chamber, to stop growing and becomes scarred and useless.
An estimated 600 to 1,400 children a year are born in the United States with the condition.
Faced with the prospect of three expensive heart operations soon after birth, with a 30% death rate, some couples simply let the children live as long as they can or opt for abortion, according to the Times.
The Boston doctors believed the fetal surgery might be successful if done soon after diagnosis, before the damage was irreversible.
Through a needle inserted in the mother's abdomen, they inserted the same kind of balloon used to dilate blocked arteries in adults.
The boy might need more procedures as he grows, but doctors expect him to grow up normally, with no restrictions.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Homosexual Bill Introduced in Poland
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, Feb. 14 — Poland may be mostly Catholic, but its left-leaning government has introduced a bill legalizing cohabitation between people of the same sex, the French news agency reported. Joanna Sosnowska, a Democratic Left Alliance deputy who prepared the bill, said it was a necessary step for Poland's entry into the European Union.
A referendum on Poland's entry into the EU is scheduled for 2003. Sosnowska said EU standards prohibit discrimination against people of “different sexual orientations.”
Her bill, modeled after France's civil solidarity pact law, which states that people's sex does not make any difference in terms of cohabitation, would grant homosexual couples some of the benefits now restricted to married couples. Adam Schulz, spokesman for the Polish bishops conference, called the bill an “attack against the institutions of marriage and the family.”
“We agree that Poland needs to discuss not only Polish integration to the EU but also the values used to develop Poland's future after this ... and the qualities Poland will bring to it,” he said. But that should be done “without copying the shameful models promoted in certain EU countries.”
San Giovanni Rotondo Friars Launch Pio TV
THE GUARDIAN, Feb. 11 — As devotees of Padre Pio anticipate the canonization this year of the Capuchin friar with the stigmata, the friars at San Giovanni Rotondo, where he lived, are launching a television station that will make the saint better known.
Tele Padre Pio will transmit images of people praying at his crypt and recollections of those who knew him. The friars will need more than $321,000 for a satellite deal, but Internet users will be able to follow broadcasts at www.teleradiopadrepio.it.
The London daily, in reporting on the plans, did not fail to take a few stabs at the Church. It echoed the Italian newspaper La Repubblica's reference to San Giovanni Rotondo as the “Las Vegas of the faith,” noted that bingo player in town seek the padre's intercession for the right numbers, and dredged up ancient charges against the friar's involvement with young women. If the allegations were never proven, as The Guardian states, why bring them up at this point?
India's Bishops in Plea to Government
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, Feb. 20 — The Catholic Bishops Conference of India said that it has received news of four attacks on Catholics in the past month, including one on a church in the southern state of Karnataka Feb. 17, the French news agency reported. Also, a priest in Chattisgarh state was attacked in January.
“We thought the attacks on Church institutions and its personnel had become a thing of the past,” Archbishop Oswald Gracias of Agra, secretary general of the conference, said in a statement. “We urge the competent authorities to nab the culprits immediately and take lawful action against them.”
Police arrested nine Hindu extremists for the attack on the church in the city of Mysore, which injured several worshippers, the Associated Press reported Feb. 18. The assailants demanded that the priest there end what they said were efforts to convert local villagers, who are mainly Hindu.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Vatican Secretary of State on Palestinian Problem
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Feb. 18 — Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state, urged Italy to seek peace in the Holy Land and afterwards said the Church wants to help Israelis and Palestinians live together, each in their own state.
“We have to quickly bring an end to this situation, giving the right to two states to exist, the state of Israel and the state of Palestine,” Cardinal Sodano told the wire service after meeting with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi. “We must help these two people to live together.”
Chiapas Bishop Says Ban Encourages More Priests
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Feb. 17 — Bishop Felipe Arizmendi of San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, said that a Vatican-ordered five-year suspension of permanent deacon ordinations should not be seen as racist or discriminatory but as an “invitation to increase the ordination of Indian priests” in Chiapas.
Bishop Arizmendi said it was a deficiency that only one Indian priest has been ordained since the time of his predecessor, Bishop Samuel Ruiz, while 342 men have become deacons. He said he hoped that the Vatican would allow the married deacons to become priests, but the Vatican has rejected such a step.
The wire service said that deacons are an important element in Chiapas because many Indian communities do not respect celibate men as much as married Church workers with families.
Bishops Ruiz and Arizmendi have built up an “indigenous Church,” incorporating pre-Columbian customs of the Mayan Indians, the article said.
Italian Court Rejects Case Against Vatican Radio
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, Feb. 19 — Italy has no jurisdiction over the central institutions of the Vatican, including, a judge said in throwing out a case involving radiation from Vatican Radio's transmission towers.
Judge Andrea Calabria invoked the 1929 Lateran Treaty by which Italy recognized the sovereignty of the Vatican. The French news agency said that residents near a cluster of 28 Vatican Radio towers 19 miles north of Rome blame them for an alleged increase in leukemia and cancer tumors in the area. Their case was supported by environmental groups and Italy's Green Party.
Vatican Radio last year halved the power of its transmitters and the length of its medium-wave broadcasts in a bid to comply with new Italian regulations. However, the emissions of electromagnetic radiation remained between three and six times the maximum permitted level, the article said.
Vatican Radio said the decision does not mean that Vatican Radio will stop adopting “precautionary measures” against health risks, the Associate Press said. A leader of a citizens group fighting the emissions said he would take the case before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Get Ready for Another Anti-Pius Feature
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, Feb. 13 — Yet another attack on the memory of Pope Pius XII was unveiled at the Berlin Film Festival with the screening of “Amen,” by Franco-Greek director Costa-Gavras. “Amen” is a screen version of “The Deputy,” the 1963 play by Rolf Hochhuth that started turning public opinion against the late Pope.
“Amen” accuses Pope Pius of ignoring evidence of severe persecution of the Jews. It dramatizes the life of Kurt Gerstein, an SS officer who appealed to the Vatican after his efforts to convince the United States, other Western allies and his own Lutheran church to intervene.
“The only organization that had real access to the German people was the Church,” Costa-Gavras told a news conference after the screening. “It should have raised protest as early as 1933,” the year Hitler came to power.
There is no mention in the report by the French news agency of how many Jews Pius actually did save — over 700,000 by some estimates. The Pope did speak out on several occasions but seems to have recognized that directly condemning Hitler led to even greater persecution of Jews and Christians.
Hochhuth told reporters that he was gratified by Costa-Gavras' courage in adapting his work.
But what kind of courage does it take when it seems de rigeur to condemn the late Pope? Perhaps it's time to stop putting the dead on trial and recognize that the Church has been speaking out about a Holocaust that is taking place right now. Will Costa-Gavras, Hochhuth, et al help give the Church a voice in trying to reverse the culture of death?
BY Jim Cosgrove
Boston Scandal Has Little Affect on Collections
THE BOSTON GLOBE, Feb. 17 — Officials in the Archdiocese of Boston report little drop-off in the amount of contributions, in spite of reports that parishioners would withhold donations because of the handling of clergy sex abuse cases, the Boston daily reported.
A recent Boston Glob/WBZ-TV poll found that nearly 20% of Catholics in the archdiocese said they would withhold contributions. But Ken Hokenson, the archdiocese's chief development officer, said that only three or four of more than 100,000 pledges for the Cardinal's Appeal have been rescinded.
In addition, less than two dozen of some 4,000 donors to the Promise for Tomorrow fund have rescinded their pledges. Hokenson said the amount involved was less than one-half of a percent, or about $75,000 of the roughly $150 million pledged.
The archdiocese received more than $1 million in pledges in the second week of February. So far, no major donors have pulled their pledges.
Chicago Church Heeds Liturgical Reforms
CHICAGO DAILY HERALD, Feb. 16 — Recent liturgical directives from the Vatican are filtering down to the parish level, as in the case of a Chicago church replacing its Resurrection Cross with a crucifix. The Chicago daily quoted Father Dan Deutsch, pastor of Holy Cross parish, as saying the crucifix is an important reminder of what the Eucharist is all about.
Unfortunately, the article confuses terms when it talks about the ordination of acolytes to assist during Mass. The paper said that Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford, Ill., ordained seven men as acolytes on a recent visit to the church. It probably meant to say that seven men were instituted as servers. Acolyte was suppressed as one of the minor orders on the way to priestly ordination in the Latin Catholic Church.
The paper also said the men will help the priest purify the vessels for Communion after Mass, but according to the U.S. Bishops' Guidelines for the Concelebration of the Eucharist it is the priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion who is to purify the vessels at the side table or, after Mass has concluded, in the sacristy.
Tridentine Rites Extend Beyond Mass in New Jersey
HERALD-LEADER, Feb. 16 — The Tridentine Mass is alive and well, especially in Berlin, N.J., the Lexington, Ky., daily reported.
While many churches around the country have a weekly or monthly Mass in the form that was the norm until 1969, Mater Ecclesiae Parish in the Diocese of Camden celebrates all Sunday and daily Masses, as well as baptisms, weddings and funerals, according to the ancient rite.
It is also rare that an all-Tridentine parish be administered by a diocesan priest, rather than a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter or another religious order.
The article points out that the liturgies are conducted in Latin, but mistakenly suggests that the Second Vatican Council decreed that Mass should be in the “prevailing language of the parish.” In fact, Vatican II said that the use of Latin “is to be preserved in the Latin rites,” but that the vernacular may be used.
Mater Ecclesiae was established in 2000 by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio for “Catholics who feel an attachment to the traditional Latin Mass,” according to the parish Web site.
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