News In Brief

Bishop Skylstad Denies 40-Year-Old Allegation of Abuse

SPOKANE, Wash. — Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has denied a woman’s claim that he sexually abused her more than 40 years ago when she was a minor. Diocesan attorney Greg Arpin said in a March 8 statement, “Bishop Skylstad categorically denies the accusation.”

The statement said that the diocesan sexual abuse review board and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, papal nuncio to the United States, have been advised of the accusation. News of the claim was reported by media outlets March 8, but the news stories said it was filed last December as part of the diocese’s bankruptcy process. Bishop Skylstad, 72, has been a priest since 1960 and a bishop since 1977. He has headed the Spokane Diocese since 1990.

“I have kept the promise of celibacy that I made when I was ordained a deacon 47 years ago,” Bishop Skylstad said in the statement. “I hope that the Spokane community will join me in praying for all those who have come forward to report sexual abuse. Please pray for me as well.”


Market Will Set Pace of Orleans’ Recovery, Says Expert

NEW ORLEANS — The pace and extent of New Orleans’ recovery from Hurricane Katrina will be decided in large measure by market forces, but it is too soon to know if the city’s infrastructure will ever again support a pre-Katrina population of 485,000, a planning expert told officials of Catholic Charities USA during their visit to the Archdiocese of New Orleans March 4.

Rigamer spoke to nearly three dozen members of the Catholic Charities USA board of trustees who visited the Gulf region for an update on recovery efforts since the storm of Aug. 29, 2005.

Louisiana’s “major city is indeed in a crisis,” said Greg Rigamer, a New Orleans planner whose statistical models have been used to craft broad outlines for how billions of dollars in federal funds eventually may be allocated to flooded-out homeowners. “I think the recovery is beginning, but the city is at risk,” he said. “The need for affordable housing is tremendous. Unless we come up with an intelligent solution to this, we will lose 40% to 50% of our population.”


Immigration Head Affirms Importance of Security

WASHINGTON — Those who apply to work, live and become citizens in the United States are customers of the federal department that processes immigration and will be treated with fairness, but protecting national security is most important, said the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“I genuinely believe you can have both,” solving the problem of a backlog of applications and ensuring national security, said Emilio Gonzalez, who in January was sworn in as the director, which is an undersecretary position within the Department of Homeland Security. “But, the minute you can’t have both, I err on the side of national security.”

Gonzalez, who emigrated from Cuba and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, met with journalists March 7 in an invitation-only, round-table discussion in Washington to introduce himself and answer questions. It was his first sit-down session with journalists since he started the job.