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Keeping an eye on the news around the Nation
BY John Lilly
President Bush Signs Bill to
WASHINGTON TIMES, Aug. 15 — A 17-year battle over a San Diego cross has come to a temporary halt.
Using the principle of eminent domain, President Bush transferred ownership of
the Mount Soledad
war memorial from the city of San
Diego to the federal government, said the Times.
The cross was
installed as a Korean War memorial on the city’s skyline in 1954. Last year,
76% of San Diego
voters approved a proposition that would allow the cross to be given to the
federal government. Superior Court Judge Patricia Yim Cowett
invalidated the vote, saying the proposition violated the state constitution by
showing a preference for a religious symbol.
Congress drafted a
bill to transfer the cross. The House passed the bill by a 349-74 vote. The
Senate approved it unanimously.
of San Francisco
EXAMINER, Aug. 15 — The Catholic League for Religious and Civil
Rights has filed a lawsuit in response to a resolution passed by the San
Francisco Board of Supervisors, reported
In March, the board
adopted a resolution criticizing Cardinal William Levada,
former archbishop of San Francisco,
for directing Catholic organizations not to support same-sex couples to adopt
maintains that the resolution violates the First Amendment. The resolution
“gives Catholic citizens a sense of not being welcomed when the government is
showing open opposition against them,” said Kiera
McCaffrey, League spokeswoman.
Dennis Herrera filed a motion to dismiss the case.
weighed in on a matter of public policy and they are certainly free to do
that,” said city attorney’s office spokesman Matt Dorsey. “But the fact they
are a religious institution doesn’t constitutionally shield them from being
Mother Blocked From Seeing
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Aug. 8 — The
Massachusetts girl that state officials wanted to let die is still living — and
is in rehabilitation at the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Boston.
Allison Avrett gave her parental rights over Haleigh
Poutre to her sister, Holli
Strickland, in 2001 because she could not properly care for the girl. Police
say that Strickland and her husband beat Haleigh so
severely that she fell into a coma and sustained brain damage.
sought to have the girl removed from life support, but following the legal
battle, Haleigh started breathing on her own and
responding to questions.
Department of Social Services has allowed Avrett, who
lives more than 90 miles away, to visit Haleigh for
15 minutes every other Tuesday.
Allison’s visit last week,” said Mia Alvarado, spokeswoman for the DSS, in response
to charges that the state is now forbidding Avrett to
visit. Avrett, who last saw the girl July 25, said
she is “doing well.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
ACLU Defends Catholic In Rehab Program
DETROIT NEWS, Dec. 6 — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit in Detroit on behalf of a man who was sentenced to attend a faith-based Pentecostal drug rehabilitation program, reported the Detroit News. The suit claims that the program did not provide drug treatment or counseling but was trying to prevent the man from practicing his Catholic faith.
When Joseph Hanas pleaded guilty to marijuana possession in February 2001, a judge placed the 19-year-old in the state-sponsored Inner City Christian Outreach Residential Program, which is run by a Pentecostal Church. Hanas said his rosary and prayer book were taken from him and Catholicism was denounced as witchcraft. He said he was told the only way to avoid prison time and a felony record was to convert to Pentecostalism.
While the judge acknowledged the failings of the center, he ruled that Hanas did not complete the program and sentenced him to additional jail time.
Kary Moss, director of the Michigan ACLU, said, “This man was punished for insisting on the right to practice Catholicism and refusing conversion to the Pentecostal faith.”
Indiana Lawmaker Defends Using Name of Jesus
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 1 — Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma is trying to overturn a federal ruling that says that opening prayers in the House of Representatives may not mention Jesus Christ, said the Associated Press.
Bosma, a Republican, has asked the Indiana attorney general's office to investigate the possibility of overturning the decision.
In a case brought by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, Judge David Hamilton of the Southern District of Indiana issued an injunction preventing sectarian prayer as part of the official business of the House. While legislative prayers can continue, Hamilton said, Bosma must advise those praying that they are not to advance one faith or to use Christ's name or title.
“If it stands, this will be the farthest-reaching decision, to my knowledge, of any federal court specifically focusing on the name Christ and removing that from public discourse,” Bosma said. “I question how soon it will be when my ability to stand here and say the name just in discussion on the floor of the House will be taken away as well.”
Governor Decides Not to Exempt Catholic Hospitals
BOSTON GLOBE, Dec. 8 — Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had initially endorsed a proposal exempting Catholic and other private hospitals from a new law requiring the dispensing of “emergency contraception” to rape victims. But the governor withdrew his support.
The proposal was put forth by Romney's public health commissioner, Paul Cote Jr., w ho said the new law conflicted with an older statute barring the state from forcing private hospitals from dispensing contraceptives or information.
But the governor said at a news conference Dec. 8 that his legal advisers found the new law superseded the old one and that all hospitals are required to offer the so-called “morning after” pill.
Romney said that in his view, “it's the right thing for hospitals to provide information and access to emergency contraception to anyone who is a victim of rape.”
“Emergency contraception” works both to prevent a human egg from being fertilized, but also can act as an abortifacient if that has already happened.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Senator Calls for Halt of Abortion Pill Sales
BALTIMORE SUN, Nov. 27 — The Food and Drug Administration will restrict sales of the abortion pill known as RU-486 if additional deaths are linked to the medication. That's what Senator Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said the FDA told him, according to the Baltimore daily.
The drug is under investigation following reports that four California women died after using it.
“Increasingly, they are aware that it is a dangerous drug,” said DeMint, who met with then-FDA Commissioner Dr. Lester Crawford during the summer and has introduced legislation to suspend sales of the drug.
Opponents say that hundreds more women's deaths and injuries have resulted from the drug, but have not been reported to the FDA.
“I don't know how many women have to die before this drug is removed from the market. I think one is enough,” said Monty Patterson, the father of 18-year-old Holly, who died from septic shock two years ago after taking RU-486.
Canadian Tribunal Upholds Knights’ Case
GLOBE AND MAIL, Nov. 29 — A Vancouver, British Columbia, Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Knights of Columbus were entitled to not allow a lesbian couple to hold a wedding reception at their hall but that the organization should pay $2,000 to the women because it had affronted the couple's dignity, feelings and self-respect, reported the Toronto daily.
Deborah Chymyshyn and Tracey Smith had booked the hall for a Nov. 1, 2003, reception following their outdoor “wedding” ceremony. They claim that they did not know that the hall was operated by a Catholic organization. Those who confirmed the rental did not know that the event was celebrating a same-sex union. The Knights canceled the rental once the truth was discovered.
In their ruling, the tribunal said that the Knights could not be compelled to act in a manner contrary to their “core religious beliefs,” but that “that right is not absolute.”
Diocese Will Allow Celebrations Without Priests
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov 29 — Because of a growing lack of priests, the Diocese of Belleville, Ill., stated that it will allow deacons or laypersons to perform “Sunday Celebrations” in emergency situations, said the Associated Press.
Belleville Bishop Edward Braxton wrote a letter to parishes stating that it has become more difficult to ensure that a priest will always be available on Sunday.
The special rite can include the distribution of holy Communion. It may be used only as a last resort, such as when a sudden illness leaves a parish without a priest. Also, the rite may be performed only with a written mandate from the bishop.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Diocese Declares Parish-Union Contract Invalid
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 18 — An internal church court in Brownsville, Texas, found that the first union contract within a U.S. Roman Catholic Church is invalid, reported the AP.
The diocesan tribunal and a panel of three judges from outside the diocese had examined whether Church law recognized a contract signed in 2002 between Holy Spirit Catholic Church in McAllen and the United Farm Workers of America, which was representing lay employees in the parish. The panel held a Collegiate Ecclesiastical Court in June and made its decision Nov. 10.
Employees see the decision as disappointing, saying that the Church does not recognize the rights of workers. Some of the workers hope to take the case to the Supreme Court.
“Basically the judges felt the pastor who made the contract did not have the proper authority or license,” said Msgr. Herberto Diaz, chancellor for the Brownsville Diocese.
Catholic Social Service Agency Limits Services
KENTUCKY POST, Nov. 21 — Catholic Social Services of Northern Kentucky has been criticized for not providing certain services, said the Post.
Catholic Social Services said, for example, that it won't help a client procure an abortion, prescribe or purchase birth control pills, or counsel homosexual couples in strengthening their relationship.
The agency sees its newly defined policy as being consistent with Catholic moral teaching while also serving those in need.
“If anyone has a need, we will serve them, as long as their need is consistent with what the Church believes is a positive, life-giving lifestyle,” said Bill Jones, director of the agency.
Pro-Life Activists Call for Boycott of Fund-Raiser
BOSTON GLOBE, Nov. 20 — According to the Globe, a network of pro-life activists plan to boycott the annual Christmas dinner fund-raiser for Boston's Catholic Charities because the event will honor Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who supports abortion.
“It's unacceptable for [Catholic Charities] to honor someone who stands in the public square and mischaracterizes our faith,” said Carol McKinley, spokeswoman for the pro-life group, Faithful Voice.
McKinley has asked the event's major donors to withdraw their sponsorship of the Dec. 9 benefit. At least one donor has already done so. Faithful Voice also plans to demonstrate outside the dinner.
Evangelicals Welcome Pro-Life Conference Attendees
CBC NEWS, Nov. 18 — A Montreal evangelical church welcomed the Canadian National Pro-Life Conference after St. Joseph's Oratory refused to host the Nov. 17 event — a day before it was to begin — because it had received threats from pro-abortion and homosexual activists, CBC News reported.
La Bible Parle, a French-language evangelical church located about 25 minutes from the oratory, opened its doors to some 300 attendees.
Holy Cross Father Jean-Pierre Aumont, rector of the oratory, reportedly said that he was worried about participants’ safety and possible damage to the oratory.
“This decision to cancel the contract at this last minute is a great capitulation on the part of the Catholic Church in the face of opposition to its pro-life, pro-family teaching,” said Luc Gagnon, president of the pro-life group Campagne Quebec Vie. He described the oratory's actions as “cowardly.”
In 2004, St. Joseph's provided a venue for a teaching session of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the sect Art of Living Foundation.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Indecency Complaints to FCC Rise Fourfold
REUTERS, Nov. 10 — Complaints to the Federal Communications Commission regarding obscene programming on radio and television increased dramatically over the past three months, from 6,161 complaints during the previous three months to 26,185, said Reuters.
While the FCC did not release information on the shows that received the complaints, insiders believe that a majority of them resulted from campaigns launched by the Parents Television Council against programs on ABC and FOX.
Some critics describe the FCC's numbers as inflated because they count each complaint, whether it was sent by an individual more than once or whether it was sent through an advocacy group.
“The FCC … permits a process whereby indecency complaints appear to be artificially inflated relative to other types of complaints,” said Adam Thierer, a senior fellow with the Progress and Freedom Foundation.
On Nov. 29 the Senate Commerce Committee plans to hold an “Open Forum on Decency.”
Alito Questioned Abortion Decision
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Nov. 15 — Twenty years ago, current Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito argued that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion, reported The Times.
The disclosure was made through a job application released by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The application was for a promotion Alito, a Catholic, had applied for during the Reagan administration.
Abortion supporters questioned Alito's views.
“Here, unfortunately, the memo itself created the perception of bias,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “It will be crucial for this nominee to address the issue head on.”
Fired California Teacher Reaches Settlement
KXTV, Nov. 11 — Marie Bain, the Sacramento Catholic high school teacher who was fired in October, has reached a settlement with the Diocese of Sacramento, said KXTV.
Bain had been fired on the orders of Sacramento Bishop William Weigand after a parent of a student at Loretto High School complained that Bain had volunteered for Planned Parenthood.
Bain said that her involvement at Planned Parenthood took place prior to her being hired by the high school this fall, and that she had not participated in any activities since taking the job.
In exchange for an undisclosed sum of money for lost income, Bain agreed that she would not sue the diocese.
FDA Decision on ‘Morning-After’ Pill Faulted
LOS ANGELES TIMES, Nov. 15 — Federal drug regulators abandoned their science-based decision-making when they ruled in 2004 against allowing the “morning-after” birth control pill to be sold over-the-counter, said the Times. The revelation was made through a Government Accountability Office report.
The organization reported that it found four aspects of the FDA's review “unusual.” It said FDA heads Dr. Florence Houn, Dr. Jonca Bull and Dr. John Jenkins refused to sign the agency's decision, that high-level management was more involved in the decision than usual, that there were conflicting accounts among mid-level and senior managers over whether the decision to reject the pharmaceutical request was made before scientific evaluations had been done, and that the FDA's rationale for shielding younger adolescents did not follow FDA practices.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, who requested the inquiry, suggested that the FDA bowed to politics in deciding not to make the drug available.
“GAO's final report describes an appalling level of manipulation and suppression of the science,” said Waxman.
Those opposed to making the drug available over the counter argue that it would lead to greater promiscuity by teens.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Former President Regrets Party's Stance on Abortion
WASHINGTON TIMES, Nov. 4 — Former President Jimmy Carter recently told reporters that he disagreed with abortion and criticized his party for not tolerating candidates who oppose the procedure, said the Times.
“I have never felt that any abortion should be committed,” said Carter. “I think each abortion is the result of a series of errors.”
Carter added that his party lost the 2004 presidential elections because Democrats failed to connect with religious voters.
City Won't Seize Land for Catholic School
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Nov. 4 — The Associated Press reported that Jersey City, N.J., has decided not to use the power of eminent domain to seize a local bar so that the land can be used for a Catholic high school's football field.
While the school built a new field last year, officials said that it needs to lengthen it. The bar owner had rejected offers from the school to purchase his property.
The New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union objected to the prospect.
Ed Barocas, ACLU legal director, said, “It's inappropriate for government to take land from one person … to benefit a particular religion.”
Hotels Promote ‘Procreation Vacation'
USA TODAY, Nov. 3 — In an effort to promote their hotels, three Starwood properties in the Caribbean and Bahamas are offering “procreation packages” to couples hoping to conceive a child, said USA Today.
The promotion includes a three-night getaway, romantic dinners, spa treatments, and food, such as pumpkin soup, believed to promote fertility. The packages cost between $1,600 and $3,500.
Bill Thompson, marketing executive for Starwood, said, “We're simply enhancing the baby-making process by offering island remedies that have been passed down for generations.”
Wisconsin Bishop Apologizes to His Flock
IRONWOOD DAILY GLOBE, Nov. 2 — In a private meeting, Superior, Wis., Bishop Raphael Fliss apologized to parishioners regarding the oversight that led to the ordination of Father Ryan Erickson, a priest who allegedly murdered a funeral home director and his intern in February, 2002 before taking his own life, reported the Ironwood, Mich., daily.
Bishop Fliss told the parishioners that he was mistaken when he assumed that the system in place to prevent problematic priests worked.
A judge recently found that Father Erickson likely killed funeral home director Dan O'Connell and intern James Ellison because O'Connell had confronted the priest with sexual abuse allegations. Father Erickson committed suicide after being questioned by police regarding the murders.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Hurricane Evacuees Charged in Murder of Samaritan
HOUSTON CHRONICLE, Oct. 30 — Three Hurricane Katrina evacuees were charged with the murder of Betty Blair, an active member of St. Pius V Catholic Church in Pasadena, Texas, who attempted to help the evacuees by paying them to do work on her property, reported the Chronicle.
Blair, 77, was the mother of three daughters and the widow of former Pasadena school board president Robert Blair. Jimmy Hoang Lee, Stephanie Jacobo, and Roosevelt Smith Jr. of Louisiana were charged with strangling Blair during a robbery at her home Oct. 28.
“It appears that those she tried to help were the ones that murdered her,” said Vance Mitchell, Pasadena Police Department spokesman. They were arrested Oct. 28 driving Blair's vehicle.
Blair was chairwoman of the church's extraordinary ministers of Communion and had served at the church as a teacher.
Catholic School Tells Students: Thou Shall Not Blog
NEW YORK POST, Oct. 26 — Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta, N.J., ordered students to remove personal blogs from the Internet, said the Post.
Students, the majority of whom protested the rule, were told to dismantle existing accounts on MySpace.com and similar sites, even if they were posted from students’ home computers. Free speech advocates argue that the move oversteps individuals’ rights.
“It would be better if they taught students what they should and shouldn't do online rather than take away the primary communication tool of their generation,” said Kurt Opsahl, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
But the school's principal said the new rule was designed to protect students from online predators.
“I don't see this as censorship,” said Father Kieran McHugh. “If this protects one child from being near-abducted or harassed or preyed upon, I make no apologies for this stance.”
Arizona Court Says a Fertilized Egg Isn't a Person
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 29 — According to an Arizona Court of Appeals, a days-old human embryo preserved outside of the womb isn't a person, reported the Associated Press.
The ruling resulted from a lawsuit filed by a Phoenix couple who accused the Mayo Clinic of losing or destroying some of their fertilized eggs. The couple had asked the Court of Appeals to expand the definition of “person” under the state's wrongful-death statute to include viable embryos.
The court used the term “pre-embryo” to describe the days-old embryo, saying that calling fertilized eggs “embryos” could imply that the egg was a person.
The court said that it's a matter for the Legislature to decide.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Catholic NFL Owner Dies
USA TODAY, Oct. 26 — New York Giants’ owner Wellington Mara, a daily communicant, died of cancer on Oct. 25, reported USA Today. He was 89.
“His priorities were his religion and his family, not the spotlight or money,” said his son Frank Mara, director of promotions for the Giants.
Mara contributed to several Catholic causes. In addition to supporting the Archdiocese of New York, he was also a pro-life advocate. In 1987, he assembled a group of Giants players to produce a pro-life video, “Champions for Life.”
Former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell described Mara, a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, as the “conscience of the league.”
Birth Control Results in Church Membership Decline
ASSOCIATED BAPTIST PRESS, Oct. 19 — Sociologists suggest that the use of birth control accounts for 70% of the decline in mainline Protestant churches, reported Associated Baptist Press.
“The so-called decline of the mainline may ultimately be attributable to its earlier approval of contraception,” the sociologists wrote in Christian Century.
Many religious observers have previously attributed the decline to the growth of what the study terms “conservative churches” (such as Baptist, Assembly of God, or Pentecostal) in response to the impact of liberalism. The researchers studied shifts in church membership between 1900 and 1975 and compared fertility rates between women in those churches with women in Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran and other mainline Protestant churches.
But the study finds that fertility rates are now virtually the same between the two groups and will produce only a 1% decline in mainline membership over the next decade.
Diocese of Lincoln Leads Nation in Priest Ratio
DAILY NEBRASKAN, Oct. 26 — While many dioceses are witnessing declines in priestly ordinations, the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., can boast the highest ratio of priests to Catholics, said the Daily Nebraskan.
According to the 2005 Official Catholic Directory, the Diocese of Lincoln has 121 active diocesan priests serving 89,236 Catholics. That's one priest for every 737 Catholics. Nationally, there is one priest for every 4,723 Catholics.
Father Robert Matya, pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, said, “We do try to act how God wants us to be, and I think that is very appealing to a lot of these young men.”
Mexican Priest Assassinated
10NEWS.COM, Oct. 26 — Hundreds of people turned out Oct. 26 for the funeral of a Mexican priest who was shot and killed in Tijuana in late October, the San Diego television station reported.
The body of Father Luis Velasquez Romero was found dumped in his car Oct. 24. He had been shot six times while his hands were cuffed behind his back.
The Channel 10 report said that by Oct. 26, there no suspects and that Father Velasquez had never mentioned to anyone that he had any enemies or that there were any threats on his life. Catholic News Service said Oct. 26 that the 52-year-old priest was known for his outspoken sermons that often criticized local politicians.
There have been 358 murders in Tijuana this year.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Catholic Senator Contemplates Presidential Run
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Oct. 14 — Catholic convert Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., is assessing the possibility of a presidential primary campaign, reported The Times.
Brownback first ran for Congress in 1994. After being diagnosed with melanoma in 1995 he reevaluated his life and faith. Three years ago, with the sponsorship of Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., Brownback entered the Catholic Church.
Brownback has led efforts to ban human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research and has proposed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex “marriage.”
Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation said, “I mention him oftentimes to grass-roots people who call me and say: ‘What are we doing? We don't have a candidate in 2008.’”
Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Abortion for Prisoner
MISSOURIAN, Oct. 18 — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the State of Missouri in favor of transporting a female prisoner to receive an abortion despite a state law prohibiting taxpayers from having to pay for such a trip, said the Missourian.
That decision came after Justice Clarence Thomas issued a temporary stay preventing the inmate's access to transportation. The full court, however, lifted Thomas’ stay Oct. 17 — without comment or an indication of which justices voted which way.
“We will be complying with the court order in this situation and transporting the inmate for the procedure,” said John Fougere, spokesman for the Missouri Corrections Department. He maintained, however, that transporting Missouri inmates for this elective procedure violates a 2005 law.
Over the past eight years, seven prisoners have been transported to receive abortions at a total cost of approximately $2,800 for Missouri taxpayers. Costs include the expense for fuel, as well as salaries for two custody officers to transport the inmate.
Traditional Orders Attract Young Women
DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL, Oct. 16 — According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, young women who are answering the vocational call are attracted to more traditional orders.
“Young people want to be challenged,” said Sister Wendy McMenamy, of the Ohio-based Sisters of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which has grown to eight sisters in just two years. “They want to feel like they're giving up something for Jesus.”
“More traditional orders are attracting more applicants than progressive orders,” said Dean Hoge, sociology professor at The Catholic University of America. But, he added, “neither are attracting that many applicants.”
Diocese Fires Planned Parenthood Volunteer
FOX NEWS, Oct. 17 — Sacramento drama teacher Marie Bain has been fired from her job at Loretto High School by Bishop William Weigand for escorting clients for abortion at Planned Parenthood, reported Fox.
Bishop Weigand described Bain's “public participation in the procurement of abortions … morally inappropriate and unacceptable.”
Catholic schools Superintendent Dom Puglisi said that while teachers can hold private beliefs, their public actions cannot conflict with Church teachings.
Planned Parenthood said that Bain volunteered weekly escorting clients. The organization described the diocese's action as “disappointing.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Mississippi Diocese Receives Donation to Rebuild
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 8 — Philanthropist Joseph Canizaro and Catholic Charities USA teamed up to provide $4 million to help the Diocese of Biloxi rebuild the churches and schools that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, said the Associated Press.
Canizaro, a New Orleans commercial real estate developer, donated $1 million along with a $3 million grant from Catholic Charities to rebuild 30 churches and schools that were damaged. The chairman of First Bank & Trust of Mississippi & Louisiana and the founder of the Donum Dei Foundation, Canizaro also promised 10% of his profits from the first phase of a master-planned community.
“These are dark days but there are a lot of lights shining brightly,” said Biloxi Bishop Thomas Rodi.
In addition to his work in Mississippi, Canizaro has been active in the New Orleans recovery effort, spearheading rebuilding of area businesses.
Family Sues Abortion Drug Company
MONTEREY HERALD, Oct. 8 — The family of Hoa Thuy Tran, who died after taking the abortion drug RU-486, is suing the drug's U.S. marketer, Danco Laboratories, alleging that the company did not sufficiently warn women of the drug's risks.
Tran, 21, from Fountain Valley, Calif., took Mifeprex on Dec. 23, 2003 at a Planned Parenthood business in Costa Mesa. She was sent home with instructions to take Misoprostol a day or two later. She died on Dec. 29.
“She was not given any warnings of any risk of death,” said attorney Mark Crawford, who is representing Tran's family.
Tran is one of four U.S. women who have died after taking the medication. The cases are under investigation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Los Angeles Archdiocese Releases Abuse Files
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Oct. 12 — The Archdiocese of Los Angeles released confidential personnel files of 126 clergymen chronicling 75 years of abuse, reported The New York Times.
The files, some which date back to the 1930s, were released as part of civil suit settlement talks with lawyers for 560 accusers. The archdiocese provided the documents to The Times prior to their public release.
“Unfortunately, these files do not contain the full story of the participation by the Church in the manipulation and movement of these priests,” said Raymond Boucher, lead attorney in the civil lawsuit. Boucher characterized the documents’ release as a public relations move.
Spokane Diocese Plans to Sell Chancery
KVEW, Oct. 10 — In order to settle claims by those who allege that they were sexually abused by priests, the Diocese of Spokane plans to sell its headquarters and Bishop William Skylstad's home, reported television station KVEW.
The Spokane Diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last December.
The plan to sell diocesan property was included in papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The plan did not include details regarding individual parishes, schools or other Catholic property in the diocese.
Bishop Skylstad released a statement that said that the plan deals justly with the claims of abuse while still allowing the diocese to continue its ministry.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Baseball Commissioner Reviewing Baseball Chapel
WASHINGTON POST, Oct. 1 — Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is reviewing the organization's cooperation with Baseball Chapel following Washington Nationals’ outfielder Ryan Church's remarks about Jews, said the Post.
In September, Church was quoted by the Post saying that he had asked the Nationals’ volunteer chaplain, Jon Moeller, if Jews were “doomed” because they did not believe in Jesus Christ. Moeller apparently nodded Yes in response to the question. The next day Moeller was suspended and the team issued an apology from Church.
Baseball Chapel is an evangelical Christian organization that provides volunteer chaplains to professional baseball teams.
Selig is considering a recommendation for rotating chaplains from various denominations.
Dioceses Ban Religious Organization
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 24 — Chicago Cardinal Francis George has become one of four bishops to ban Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission from meeting in archdiocesan facilities or presenting itself as Catholic, reported the Associated Press.
Founded 12 years ago, Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission holds weekly prayer meetings in more than 100 Catholic churches in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Members say that the group is trying to establish itself as a new religious order.
The cardinal's decision followed a six-month review of the group which has been described as cult-like by some. Relatives of mission members have complained that the organization isolates family members and convinces members that God will condemn them if they leave. Because the organization has not been forthcoming with information, the Chicago archdiocese was unable to reach a conclusion regarding the group.
Following similar concerns, the group was previously banned by Archbishop Jerome Hanus of Dubuque, Iowa, and Bishops Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., and Thomas Doran of Rockford, Ill.
Hidden Treasure Found in Baltimore Basilica
WBAL, CHANNEL 11, Sept. 28 — An architect tapped on a wall above the arches that support the dome of Baltimore's National Shrine of the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and found it to be hollow. Tearing away protective wood, workers found historic paintings of the four evangelists, a Baltimore television station reported.
The 19th century shrine, America's first cathedral, is undergoing a $32 million renovation. The paintings date to 1865 and had been covered during an 1870s renovation. The art will be there to greet worshipers when the basilica reopens next year.
Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore has invited Pope Benedict XVI to attend the reopening of the basilica. Spokesman Sean Caine said the Vatican wrote back, saying it would take the invitation into consideration.
BY Jim Cosgrove
New Orleans Archdiocese Plans to Cut Jobs
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 26 — In dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Archdiocese of New Orleans said that it will need to lay off an unspecified number of employees over the next few weeks, reported the Associated Press.
The archdiocese is trying to decide how best to utilize fewer resources. All employees were asked to report to work by Oct. 3. Those who will be laid off will be given two weeks pay.
Archdiocesan spokesman Father William Maestri said he did not know what number of the archdiocese's 9,000 workers would be laid off.
Court Denies Pharmacists’ Contraception Objection
STATE JOURNAL REGISTER, Sept. 23 — Pharmacists who are morally opposed to dispensing “morning-after” emergency contraception will have to follow the Illinois governor's rule requiring pharmacies to dispense such medications, reported the Journal-Register.
A Sangamon County judge denied the pharmacist's request for a temporary restraining order to block Gov. Rod Blagojevich's rule. Judge John Belz said that the pharmacists failed to meet the legal standards for him to issue a restraining order.
“We feel like this is a setback,” said Edward Martin, an attorney with Americans United for Life, who is representing the pharmacists. “I'm sorry for my clients who have to now go back to living with this rule that's onerously put on them.”
In April, Blagojevich issued a state administrative rule that requires pharmacies that sell contraceptives to also fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptives. Many pharmacists object to the so-called “morning-after” pill because it can cause an abortion of an early embryo.
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Resigns
WASHINGTON POST, Sept. 24 — Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Lester Crawford announced his resignation Sept. 23, and President Bush asked National Cancer Institute Director Andrew von Eschenbach to serve as acting commissioner.
Von Eschenbach is responsible for a National Cancer Institute workshop that concluded that there is no link between abortion and breast cancer, despite a majority of studies showing it exists, said Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer. She was quoted by Lifenews.com.
Crawford's tenure was beset by criticism over drug safety and emergency contraception, the Post pointed out. The commission has repeatedly delayed a decision about whether to allow emergency contraception to be sold over the counter.
Group Seeks Boys Town Founder's Beatification
SIOUX CITY JOURNAL, Sept. 22 — Supporters of Father Edward Flanagan, the founder of Girls and Boys Town, are increasing their efforts to see him beatified, said Iowa's Sioux City Journal.
While the process is in its earliest stages, Sharon Nelson, the coordinator of a prayer group, believes Father Flanagan is already responsible for a miracle. She said that a Wisconsin man's tumor stopped growing after he sought the intercession of Father Flanagan.
Supporters gather at the Omaha, Neb., tomb of Father Flanagan monthly to pray for the cause. Father Flanagan founded Boys Town in 1917 to aid orphaned children. He died in 1948. Today, the organization encompasses 19 sites across the country that aid troubled children and their families.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Two Seminarians Killed in Car Crash
NBC5, Sept. 20 — Mundelein Seminary students Matthew Molnar and Jason Cheek were killed Sept. 15 in a car accident on the seminary grounds, reported Chicago's NBC affiliate. The two, who were studying for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., were back-seat passengers in a car that struck a tree on university grounds. The accident took place at 1:40 a.m.
Fellow seminary students Robert Spaulding and Mark Rowlands have been charged in the accident. Spaulding, the driver of the vehicle, was charged with reckless homicide and two counts of driving under the influence. Rowlands was the owner of the vehicle. Both Rowlands and Spaulding have been placed on indefinite leave of absence pending the outcome of their criminal investigations.
Kansas City, Kan. Archbishop Joseph Naumann described Molnar and Cheek as “wonderful and exuberant missionaries of Christ's love.”
Church in Massachusetts Supports Ballot Initiative
BOSTON GLOBE, Sept. 20 — Catholic dioceses in Massachusetts are joining other churches for a one-day signature-gathering effort on Oct. 2 to protect traditional marriage, said the Globe. Organizers hope to gather enough signatures to advance a 2008 ballot initiative that would ban same-sex “marriage.”
All four Catholic bishops in Massachusetts plan to send letters to their parishioners urging them to support the signature drive.
‘‘As faithful citizens, we have a moral obligation to defend the truth, no matter how counter-cultural or unappreciated our convictions might be,” Bishop George Coleman of Fall River wrote in a Sept. 12 letter. ‘‘The time is upon us to take a stand and to act, lovingly but firmly, to restore and defend the truth about marriage.”
If the organizers gather the 66,000 signatures necessary by Thanksgiving, and 50 lawmakers in two sessions of the Legislature approve it, the initiative could make it on the 2008 ballot.
Maine Says No to Federal Abstinence Funds
KENNEBEC JOURNAL, Sept. 20 — Maine became the third state in the country to turn down federal funds for an abstinence-based sexual education program, said the Journal. The state has rejected the funds because federal guidelines do not allow the money to be used to teach “safe-sex” practices.
“This money is more harmful than it is good,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, public-health director. “You can't talk about comprehensive reproductive information.” She added that since the teen pregnancy rates and abortion rates have decreased, Maine does not need the funds.
Maine had accepted federal abstinence funds between 1998 and 2004, but it did not seek the $165,000 in funds during the current fiscal year. California and Pennsylvania have also rejected the federal funds.
LifeTeen Questioned in Colorado
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, Sept. 19 — Some parishioners at Light of the World Catholic Church in Littleton, Colo. are calling into question the parish's launch of LifeTeen because of accusations against the organization's founder, reported the News.
Msgr. Dale Fushek, the founder, was placed on administrative leave in December and is the subject of a civil lawsuit filed in Maricopa County, Ariz., Superior Court.
“In terms of the application of the LifeTeen program in the archdiocese, we have a long track record. It's been very successful and trustworthy,” said Francis Maier, chancellor for the Denver Archdiocese.
LifeTeen, which is based in Arizona, is an independent organization serving more than 120,000 teens weekly in 19 countries.
Father Michael Pavlakovich, pastor of Light of the World Catholic Church, said that Msgr. Fushek lives in Arizona and will have no contact with Colorado teens.
LifeTeen Chairman Vince Roig, in a posting on the organization's web site in December 2004, said, “We believe the allegations against Msgr. Fushek are totally inconsistent with his character and honorable service to the Church and teens for the past 26 years.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Priesthood Is on the Rebound
DES MOINES REGISTER, Sept. 11 — Citing a forthcoming survey by Catholic University of America professor Dean Hoge, the Iowa daily reported that after four years of focus on the priestly sexual abuse scandals, Catholic priests have a “new sense of hope and accomplishment.”
“Priests today have higher morale than even 15 years ago, when we did the last survey,” Hoge said.
Priests, the survey indicated, have found great comfort in the support of their parishioners.
Another of the survey's findings is that priests most appreciate being relieved of parish administrative duties.
In related news, Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan told a priest's symposium that the priesthood is “on the brink of a genuine renewal.”
New York Judge Takes Leave From Diaconate
JOURNAL NEWS, Sept. 13 — New York Judge Charles Devlin has taken a leave of absence as deacon of the Church of St. John and St. Mary in Chappaqua, N.Y., since Cardinal Edward Egan issued a ban on deacons holding public office, said the Westchester County, N.Y., daily.
Deacon Devlin, who was appointed a judge this spring, is running for a 10-year term. He has been a deacon at the church since 2000.
Cardinal Egan, the archbishop of New York, became the first U.S. bishop to apply a prohibition against Catholic clergymen holding public office to deacons.
“The new [canon] law created a very difficult and conflicted situation, because of my ministry and my desire to be a judge,” Deacon Devlin said. His leave will allow him to remain a deacon in good standing, so that he will be able to resume his service as a deacon once his judicial term ends.
Cardinal Egan is considering exemptions from the ban on a case-by-case basis. One exemption he granted has allowed a deacon at St. Anthony's in Nanuet, N.Y., to run for a ninth term on the Clarkstown Town Board.
9/11 Firefighter Finally Laid to Rest
NEWSDAY, Sept. 8 — Four years after Gerard Baptiste was killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the firefighter was laid to rest, reported Newsday. The New York Fire Department lost 343 of its members when the twin towers collapsed.
A memorial service had been held for Baptiste Nov. 16, 2001. Baptiste's remains were identified earlier this year, making a Sept. 7 funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral possible. Lt. Bob LaRocco, Baptiste's supervisor, hoped that the funeral would help Baptiste's family take another step toward moving on.
Baptiste was one of four firefighters from Ladder Co. 9 who perished. He reportedly died on the 33rd floor of the north tower while helping rush people to safety.
“He was driven,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “by an unbridled passion to help others.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Tucson Will Incorporate Its Parishes
KVOA, Sept. 6 — The Diocese of Tucson, Ariz., plans to separately incorporate its 74 Catholic parishes in order to prevent them from being sold to pay diocesan debt, reported KVOA-TV.
Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas said that he expects that the incorporations will not have any effect on parishioners. Last year, the Tucson diocese became the second diocese to seek bankruptcy protection in the face of rising sexual abuse lawsuits. The incorporation of parishes had been written into the bankruptcy plan approved by federal Judge James Marlar.
At least seven U.S. dioceses have taken similar action. They include Baker, Ore., Davenport, Iowa, Lincoln, Neb., Stockton, Calif., Rhode Island and the archdioceses of Milwaukee and New York.
“Making them individual corporations gives them a structure that's external and legal and much closer to the canonical world,” said Baker Bishop Robert Vasa, who incorporated 60 parishes and missions in 2002.
Kansas Attorney General Seeks Abortion Records
KANSAS CITY STAR, Sept. 4 — Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline's request for abortion records is being taken to the Kansas State Supreme Court, said the Star.
Kline is seeking the medical records of 90 women and girls who received abortions in Overland Park and Wichita. He has argued that the records will allow him to go after child rapists and abortion businesses that provide illegal late-term abortions. The businesses filed a lawsuit to prevent Kline from acquiring the records.
In 2004, 79 girls under the age of 15 received abortions in Kansas. Kansas law requires medical providers to report suspicions of child molestation and bans abortions after the 22nd week of pregnancy.
California Lawmakers Snub People's Will on Marriage
ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 7 — Members of the California Legislature who helped pass a bill allowing same-sex “marriage” received this reaction from Republican Assemblyman Jay La Suer, according to the Associated Press: “History will record that you betrayed your constituents and their moral and ethical values.”
Both the state Senate and Assembly passed a same-sex “marriage” bill that had been defeated earlier in the year. It was reintroduced using the bill number of a fish-and-game marine research bill.
But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Sept. 7 he would veto the legislation. In a statement, he cited Proposition 22, a ballot initiative voters approved five years ago that said, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
The statement said Schwarzenegger believes the matter should be determined by a court decision or another plebiscite. “We cannot have a system where the people vote and the Legislature derails that vote,” it said.
The California Supreme Court is likely to decide next year whether Proposition 22 is constitutional, said the Los Angeles Times Sept. 8. California already gives same-sex couples many of the rights of marriage if they register with the state as domestic partners.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Biased Research Appears in Medical Journal
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, Aug. 24 — When the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study arguing that there is no evidence to suggest that unborn babies feel pain before the third trimester, it failed to mention that the study's lead authors actively support abortion, reported the Inquirer.
Five researchers from the University of California-San Francisco reviewed nearly 2,000 studies and concluded that legislative proposals to allow fetal pain relief during abortion were not justified by scientific evidence.
What the study didn't reveal is that one of its lead authors is an abortion clinic director, and the other once worked for NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Catherine DeAngelis, editor-in-chief of the Journal, said she was unaware of the authors' backgrounds. She admitted that the article could create the appearance of bias and could hurt the Journal's credibility.
According to a recent study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood — Fetal and Neonatal Edition, ultrasound videos taken of infants within the womb revealed 28-week-old babies crying in response to noise stimulus. Until recently, it was believed that infants only cried when air had entered the lungs after birth.
Woman Murdered Because She Was Pro-Life
WPVI, Aug. 23 — A 25-year-old Philadelphia man confessed to killing his girlfriend because she would not have an abortion, said the website for television station WPVI.
Stephen Poaches was arrested and confessed to killing Latoyia Figueroa and her unborn child. Poaches admitted to strangling the 24-year-old woman when she told him that she did not believe in abortion. He was charged with two counts of murder. Police were close to arresting another man who had helped Poaches dispose of the body.
A funeral for Figueroa, who was five months pregnant when she went missing in July, was held Aug. 26 at Saint Peter the Apostle Church in North Philadelphia.
Buffalo Diocese Expects ‘Radical’ Changes
BUFFALO NEWS, Aug. 28 — Demographic changes in Buffalo are leading to radical church clustering, consolidation, and closings, reported the Buffalo News.
The Buffalo diocese organized a 25-member commission to study the statistics and determine how the diocese can best downsize.
Shifting populations from urban to suburban, financial difficulties and a shortage of priests are forcing the change.
“If there's one thing we know, it's that we can't maintain the status quo,” said Sister Regina Murphy, diocesan director of research and planning.
Buffalo is among several dioceses that are downsizing. Rochester, N.Y., has closed 27 parishes since 1997. Green Bay and Milwaukee, Wis., and Pittsburgh are also experiencing similar trends.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Archdiocese Ends Lease to Homosexual Church
THE TIMES-PICAYUNE, Aug. 18 — An independent church that meets at an Archdiocese of New Orleans-owned hospice center was asked to leave after the archdiocese learned it supported same-sex “marriage.”
The 45-member Metropolitan Community Church of Greater New Orleans, which was founded a few decades ago to serve homosexuals, thought it had found a home for the next year when it moved into the Project Lazarus complex in the spring, the Times-Picayune reported. Project Lazarus provides hospice and palliative care to AIDS patients, many of whom are homosexual.
“This particular group blesses gay unions, which we do not support,” said Father William Maestri, a spokesman for the archdiocese.
He said the archdiocese had to act after it learned of the Metropolitan Community Church's teachings. Continuing to lease to the church might give the impression the Catholic Church is in support of same-sex “marriage,” which, he said, “we are not.”
St. Joseph and the Real Estate Bubble
NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE, Aug. 22 — Does St. Joseph know something we don't about the future of the real estate market? Some in the field think he might.
Sellers of St. Joseph statues and “St. Joseph kits” — which typically include a 4-inch plastic statue, a burial bag for the statue, prayers and other instructions — say sales of the kits are up by as much as 50% this year.
“People who are having a harder time selling their home are resorting to the statue,” said Phil Cates, owner of Modesto, Calif.-based stjosephstatue.com. “It is an indicator of what's out there.”
Cates, who is also a real estate broker, said the increase in statue sales is an early indicator of cracks in the residential real estate market.
Many Catholics and non-Catholics swear by the practice of burying a statue of the saint head-down in a plastic bag in the ground near their “For Sale” sign to help sell their homes.
However, Thomas Farrell, owner of Our Daily Bread Catholic supply store in Sayville, N.Y., said he frowns upon the practice because it has crossed the line into superstition and mysticism. Instead, he counsels customers to recite a heartfelt prayer asking St. Joseph's intercession in selling their homes.
In a ‘Loving Relationship With Christ’
DETROIT FREE PRESS, Aug. 23 — At a time when being a virgin is poked fun at by Hollywood — the movie The 40-Year-Old Virgin earned $20.6 million its opening weekend — at least one woman wants to bring back the connotation of beauty and integrity to the word.
Judith Stegman, 49, of Haslett, Mich., is one of at least 160 women in the United States who are consecrated virgins in the Catholic Church, the Detroit Free Press reported.
“I'm not remaining a virgin because I'm repressing some part of sexuality, or giving everything to my work, or refraining from loving relationships,” Stegman told the paper. “I'm invited to a loving relationship with Christ.”
Consecrated virgins pursue a spiritual vocation but are not part of any religious order. They must support themselves financially, the newspaper noted. They follow a life of prayer and are “mystically betrothed to Christ,” in the words of canon law.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Pro-Life Group Stands by Its Statement
THE CAPITAL TIMES, Aug. 16 — Pro-Life Wisconsin has refused to apologize to a local hospice center after issuing a statement criticizing the center for removing the feeding tube of a Marine injured in Iraq. Under threat of a lawsuit it has, however, retracted a statement accusing the center of murder.
Staff Sgt. Chad Simon, 32, of Monona, Wis., never recovered after he was injured by a bomb in November. On July 20, the Dane County Circuit Court ordered HospiceCare to follow the wishes laid out in Simon's living will and remove his feeding tube, the Capital Times reported.
On Aug. 11, Pro-Life Wisconsin issued a news release saying: “Sgt. Simon died of dehydration, not from any sort of brain injuries. Sgt. Simon was rendered handicapped by the bomb in Iraq; he was murdered by those who were in charge of his medical care.”
Virgin Mary Gains a New Following, Newspaper Says
GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, Aug. 13 — In a book review of Spiritual Writings on Mary by Mary Ford-Grabowsky, the Green Bay Press-Gazette declared the Blessed Virgin Mary is gaining a new following in the post-Sept. 11 world.
The article quotes Life magazine, which in 1996 noted that “one of the intriguing aspects of the latest rise of Mary is this: The emotional need for her is so irresistible to a troubled world that people without an obvious link to the Virgin are being drawn to her.”
“Our Protestant friends — theologians — are writing much more positively about the role of Mary in the life of the Church,” retired Bishop Robert Banks told the paper.
“Spirituality is getting deeper,” Norbertine Father Alfred McBride also told the paper. “[Mary's] life is one long song, or prayer, if you will. People want to be near her.”
NARAL Ad Proponent Resigns
THE WASHINGTON POST, Aug. 14 — One day after a NARAL Pro-Choice America television ad linking U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts Jr. with violent abortion opponents was withdrawn, the organization's communications director resigned.
David Seldin, who defended the ad — which the nonpartisan watchdog factcheck.org said was false — had pushed for a more aggressive debate regarding Roberts’ nomination than others within the organization, the Washington Post reported.
In an Aug. 12 e-mail announcing his resignation, Seldin said he had been thinking of leaving anyway after the Supreme Court nomination process was over.
Guardian of the Year?
THE GAINESVILLE SUN, Aug. 8 — In a move that a Franciscan friar who serves the family of Terri Schindler-Schiavo deemed “offensive,” a group that advocates guardianship services has awarded Michael Schiavo its Guardian of the Year award.
The Florida State Guardianship Association gave the award to Schiavo at its Aug. 5 meeting. The group said that although Schiavo was a “controversial choice,” the Gainesville Sun reported, it decided to recognize him because of his commitment to honor what he says were his wife's wishes not to be kept alive artificially.
Terri Schiavo died of dehydration and starvation March 31.
BY Jim Cosgrove
When Is a Fetus a Baby?
WALL STREET JOURNAL, Aug. 3 — Two unrelated articles written by the Associated Press on the same day, read side by side, was a blatant example of political correctness run amok, said the Journal.
“A 13-year-old giant panda gave birth to a cub at San Diego Zoo, but a second baby died in the womb,” one story reported.
“A cancer-ravaged woman robbed of consciousness by a stroke has given birth after being kept on life support for three months to give her fetus extra time to develop,” said the other, referring to Susan Torres of Alexandria, Va.
The headline on the Wall Street Journal's website opinionjournal.-com summed up the inconsistency: “Life Begins at Conception — if You're a Panda.”
But the Associated Press soon corrected itself. Later reports had the news service describing the stillborn panda cub as a “fetus,” and the live-born baby as a “child.” The latter article, however, later still referred to Torres’ unborn baby as a “fetus.”
Newspaper Misrepresents Cardinal's Remarks
CHICAGO TRIBUNE, Aug. 8 — The Chicago Tribune admitted its error in reporting that Cardinal Francis George of Chicago stated his belief that homosexual men should not be admitted to the seminary.
The daily first reported on the cardinal's alleged comments June 17, when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was meeting in Chicago. But in fact, the cardinal said the issue would be the subject of a document being prepared by the Vatican.
Cardinal George did say, however, that a “vocation to celibacy for life” is a prerequisite for entering the seminary, whether a man has a same-sex attraction or not. And he said that under current norms, “anyone who has been part of a gay subculture or has lived promiscuously as a heterosexual” would not be admitted to a seminary “no matter how many years in his background that might have occurred.”
Phoenix Bans Pro-Abortion Speakers
ARIZONA REPUBLIC, Aug. 4 — A December letter from Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted is just now getting attention in the press. The bishop, in the letter, forbade Gov. Janet Napolitano and other pro-abortion politicians from speaking at Catholic churches in the diocese, reported the Republic.
The issue made the news after a recent misunderstanding where speakers at a memorial service bowed out because they thought that they were banned.
Bishop Olmsted's actions followed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2004 Statement, “Catholics in Political Life.” That document cites Catholics who do not follow Church teaching and leaves the decision regarding public speaking up to individual bishops.
An invitation “would provide them with a platform which would suggest support for their actions,” wrote Bishop Olmsted.
Napolitano, a Methodist, was forbidden to speak at a Catholic church in Scottsdale last year. She has not commented publicly on the bishop's letter.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Schools Should Teach ‘Intelligent Design,’ Bush Says
THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE, Aug. 3 — Public-school students should learn the theory of intelligent design along with the theory of evolution when discussing the creation of life, President Bush told reporters Aug. 1. However, he said, it's not a federal matter.
“I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,” he said, saying the decision should be up to local school districts. “You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is Yes.”
Bush has held his opinion since his days as Texas governor, the Houston Chronicle reported. Running for president in 1999, he said schoolchildren “ought to be exposed to different theories about how the world started.”
The intelligent-design theory views life as too complex to have been created by evolution, implying a higher power must have had a hand in it.
Bush has not said whether he personally believes in one theory over another.
New Gibson Movie to Begin Shooting in October
NEWSMAX.COM, Aug. 2 — Hollywood gave Mel Gibson and his The Passion of the Christ the cold shoulder, from financing to distribution to the Academy Awards. The film ended up as one of 2004's top hits, grossing more than $370 million.
This time around, things are different for Gibson.
The writer-director plans to begin shooting Apocalypto — a Greek word meaning an unveiling or a new beginning — in October. When he offered it for domestic distribution to major movie studios, his production company got an enthusiastic response, NewsMax.com reported. The Walt Disney Co. won the bidding for the right to distribute the film in the United States.
Like The Passion of the Christ, characters in the movie will speak an ancient dialect — Mayan. Gibson is writing, producing and directing the film — set 500 years ago in Central America, according to the Associated Press — but has no plans to star in it. The cast features unknown actors native to the area of Mexico where it is being filmed, the wire service reported, and the plot is being kept under wraps.
Playing the ‘Catholic Card'?
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 27 — If confirmed, John Roberts would be the fourth Catholic on the U.S. Supreme Court — an all-time high, the Associated Press noted — causing many to speculate how religion will affect the court's decisions.
If history is any indication, however, it won't be much of a factor. Two Catholics currently on the court, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, are against abortion, the wire service reported. The third, Anthony Kennedy, sided with the 5-4 majority in a 1992 ruling reaffirming Roe v. Wade.
One Roberts opponent said President Bush was “playing the Catholic card” by nominating Roberts.
“Bush is betting he's bought himself some insulation — any opposition to Roberts, particularly because of his anti-abortion record, will likely be countered with accusations of anti-Catholicism,” said Adele Stan in the online edition of the magazine The American Prospect.
However, the Associated Press reported, Robert Destro of The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law said he'd be surprised if religion came up overtly during confirmation hearings because the Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
Questions About Lobbyist's Political Donations
BOSTON GLOBE, July 13 — Edward Saunders Jr., the new lobbyist for the Catholic bishops of Massachusetts, has come under fire for past political donations, the Globe reported.
According to records on file with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Saunders gave several contributions, amounting to $900 total, to politicians who support abortion and same-sex “marriage.”
Saunders, who now represents the bishops in the state Legislature, told the Globe the donations were made while he was lobbying for credit unions and were simply “the nature of the business.”
Massachusetts Citizens for Life questioned the appointment.
“If there are personal contributions given to lawmakers or political candidates who are not in sync with what the Church teaches,” the group's executive director said, “then doesn't that call into serious question the motives of this individual?”
Fargo Diocese Mandates Natural Family Planning
FARGO HERALD, July 20 — The Diocese of Fargo, N.D., will become one of only two dioceses in the country to require engaged couples to take a course on natural family planning, the Herald reported.
The new policy will go into effect Sept. 8. It requires couples to receive an introduction to Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body and complete a full course on an approved method of natural family planning as part of their marriage-preparation program. The Archdiocese of Denver was the first to implement such a requirement.
“I have seen a great need for this instruction to help couples fully live the sacrament of marriage,” Fargo Bishop Samuel Aquila said. “Young adults are bombarded with negative images of sexuality, with attitudes that demean the marital commitment and with lies about the so-called ‘freedom’ contraception provides. They need to know and they deserve to know the plan that God has for them regarding their sexuality and the conjugal love they will share as husband and wife.”
Cardinal to Same-Sex ‘Parents’: Not So Fast
LOS ANGELES TIMES, July 16 — With Canada's legislative redefinition of marriage as the “lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others,” Canadian Catholic leaders have questioned whether the Church can baptize the children of same-sex couples.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec told a Senate committee hearing as Parliament debated the legalization of same-sex “marriage” that canon law does not allow the “signatures of two fathers or two mothers as parents of an infant.”
“For an infant to be baptized lawfully it is required … that there be a well-founded hope that the child will be brought up in the Catholic religion,” Canon 868 says. “If such hope is truly lacking, the baptism is, in accordance with the provisions of particular law, to be deferred and the parents advised of the reason for this.”
Sunday Is Just Another Day
ARIZONA REPUBLIC, July 17 — Sundays, it seems, are less and less a day for church, family and rest, according to the Republic. Instead, it has become a day for running errands, shopping or work.
According to a 2003 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 33% of full-time workers are on the job on an average weekend.
Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, noted that for many people Sunday is no longer centered on “church and the family dinner.”
Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted recently urged the faithful to “refrain from all shopping and enjoy Sunday as a day of rest, a day of leisure, a day for family, a day for celebrating the Eucharist.”
BY Jim Cosgrove
San Francisco Archdiocese Settles for $21 Million
ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 10 — The Archdiocese of San Francisco has settled 15 of 60 pending priest sexual abuse claims for a total $21.2 million, Associated Press reported.
The archdiocese will pay $6.6 million of the total. The remainder will come from the archdiocese's insurers.
“It is our hope that the settlement of these cases will facilitate the process of healing,” said San Francisco Archbishop William Levada.
All 15 claims were filed in court as a result of the 2001 state law that extended the statute of limitations holding the Church responsible for incidents that occurred in the past. Confidentiality rules prohibit revealing how much the 11 men and four women received from the settlement.
Federal Boy Scout Funding Nixed
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, July 8 — A Chicago federal judge has issued an injunction barring the Pentagon from spending $8 million on a summer Boy Scout jamboree attended by thousands.
The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and two religious leaders who argued that public money should not be used for a group that excludes those who do not take an oath to God.
“We think government should be neutral,” said ACLU spokesman Edwin Yohnka. “It shouldn't entangle itself in favoring people who practice a particular religion in its funding schemes and its support.”
The lawsuit dates back to a 1999 claim that was partially resolved when the Department of Defense agreed to discontinue its Boy Scout funding.
Chicago Public Schools Lease Catholic Classrooms
CHICAGO TRIBUNE, July 10 — Students in seven overcrowded public Chicago schools will be taking classes in three Catholic buildings when school starts in the fall, according to the Chicago daily.
The Chicago Public School District is leasing three buildings, which can hold approximately 930 students.
The school district plans to use Good Shepherd School, St. Bride's School and St. Camillus School to relieve overcrowding.
N.Y. Bishops Urge Governor to Veto Bill
ALBANY TIMES UNION, July 12 — New York's eight bishops recently urged Gov. George Pataki to veto a bill that would let women and girls get the “morning after” contraceptive pill without a prescription, said the Albany, N.Y. daily.
The bishops, in a July 6 letter, said that emergency contraception can cause an abortion because it can work to prevent an embryo from being implanted in the uterus.
“It is difficult to imagine why anyone would support restricting parental rights and potentially exposing young girls to harmful and powerful medications on a repeated basis in this way,” the bishops wrote.
Pataki's spokesman, Andrew Rush, said that the bishops’ letter would be taken into consideration. Once Pataki, a Catholic, receives the bill, he would have 10 days to sign it, veto it or take no action, in which case it would automatically become law.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Cardinal: NY Deacons Should Not Run for Office
THE JOURNAL NEWS, July 6 — Cardinal Edward Egan has told permanent deacons in the Archdiocese of New York that they should not run for public office or accept political appointments, reported the Westchester County daily.
Approximately 240 deacons currently serve the archdiocese. Bishops may decide whether to apply to deacons the canon law prohibiting priests from running for office.
Archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling explained that “Cardinal Egan felt that this canon should include deacons” since they are ordained clergy.
One deacon, eight-term Clarkstown Town Board member John Maloney, currently holds office. He will be exempted from the policy.
Out of the Mouth of … a Rap Artist
BLACKAMERICAWEB, June 20 — Pro-life groups have been singing the praises of hip-hop rap singer Nick Cannon's new song and video, “Can I Live.”
The song tells the story of Cannon's mother, who became pregnant as a 17-year-old high school student. She planned to have an abortion but decided against it at the last minute. At the end of the song, Cannon thanks his mother for not aborting him.
“The song makes an undeniable appeal to women thinking about abortion to not do it,” wrote columnist David Person at BlackAmerica. “Babies that were almost aborted can grow up to become scientists, lawyers, teachers and even rappers.”
Catholic Hospital Must Remove Religious Symbols
TIMES LEADER, July 6 — With the sale of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.-based Mercy Hospital, all religious symbols and statuary must go, said the Times Leader.
The hospital was told that all religious items, many of which were donated in memoriam, must be removed, including statues, paintings, religious cards, and more than 200 crucifixes which adorned each hospital bedroom.
The 191-bed hospital was founded by Mother Catherine McCauley and the Sisters of Mercy 108 years ago. Cincinnati-based Catholic Healthcare Partners announced the sale of the hospital June 29 to Geisinger Health System.
Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center spokesman David Jolly said he was uncertain whether Mass would continue to be celebrated in the hospital chapel.