National Catholic Register


News In Brief

BY John Lilly

June 11-17, 2006 Issue | Posted 6/12/06 at 10:00 AM


Plan Would Mean Far Fewer Bishops’ Committees

WASHINGTON — When the U.S. bishops meet this week, they will discuss a draft plan to reduce drastically the number of committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Under the proposal, the number of bishops’ program or mission committees would drop from 35 to 14. The number of executive-level or management committees would go from five to four. Ad hoc committees — currently numbering 16 — would be eliminated, although ad hoc subcommittees or temporary task forces could be created when needed.

As in the current organization’s structure, some committees could have permanent subcommittees dealing with areas that require extensive ongoing work or special expertise. The committee restructuring, to be voted on when the bishops meet again in November, is a first major step in a planned streamlining of the bishops’ national offices. Staffing changes are to be discussed and decided the following year.


More Americans Oppose Embryonic Research

WASHINGTON — Despite pressure from supporters of embryonic stem-cell research, “Congress should not be misled” into believing that most Americans back the use of federal funds for research that kills embryos, according to an official of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of the pro-life office, cited a new poll that showed 48% of Americans oppose federal funding of stem-cell research that requires killing human embryos, while only 39% support such funding. The rest said they didn’t know or refused to answer.

When told that scientists disagree on whether embryonic stem cells or adult stem cells would “end up being more successful in treating diseases,” 57% of survey respondents said they favored research “using adult stem cells and other alternatives, to see if there is no need to destroy human embryos for research.” Only 24% said they would support “all methods, including those that require destroying human embryos, to see which will be most successful.” Another 11% said they did not support either option, and the rest said they didn’t know or declined to answer.


Portland Abuse Trials Set

PORTLAND, Ore. — Even as a federal bankruptcy judge in Oregon approved a schedule for trials over clergy sex abuse, lawyers for the Archdiocese of Portland continued to work on a way to estimate how much it will take to pay 110 remaining claims.

“The most important thing about the estimation process is that once the claims are estimated we will be able to move forward,” said Susan Ford, a Portland attorney leading the estimation work for the archdiocese.

In March, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris opened the door for using the estimations to cap the amount the archdiocese must set aside to pay all claims. She was to preside at a key hearing on the subject June 15. Ford and the archdiocese point to the 140 pre-bankruptcy abuse settlements as a record of how much the plaintiffs tend to get paid. Those payments totaled $53 million. But attorneys for claimants say the results of upcoming trials — which they expect will exceed the out-of-court settlements — should be used as the example.