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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Sep-30-2005

By Catholic News Service


Men's orders concerned about rumored ban on ordaining gays

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Rumors of an imminent Vatican instruction excluding most gay men from seminaries or ordination have sparked concern among superiors of men's religious orders in the United States. The Conference of Major Superiors of Men is sending a delegation to Rome to voice its concerns, The New York Times reported Sept. 30. One Jesuit superior, in a late September letter obtained by Catholic News Service and other news agencies, said he feared "the great harm this will cause many good priests and the Catholic faithful" if the Vatican does issue such an instruction. Father Gerald J. Chojnacki, New York Jesuit provincial superior, wrote to members of the province that such an instruction would be unjust and discriminatory. "We know that God does not discriminate," he said. "We know that gay men have felt God calling them to serve the church as priests and religious. We know that gay men have felt those calls confirmed by prayerful and legitimate discernment processes. We know that gay men who have responded to the call have served the church well as priests and religious -- and so why would we be asked to discriminate based on orientation alone against those whom God has called and invited?"

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U.S. has resources to help at home and abroad, religious leaders say

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The United States not only has the resources but the responsibility to deal with both domestic disasters like hurricanes and "critical needs of the world's poor and most vulnerable." How Congress responds "should reflect our moral obligation to reach out to the poor and vulnerable," said a Sept. 29 letter written by Catholic Relief Services president and CEO Ken Hackett and Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Policy. "At the same time Congress responds generously and quickly to those who have lost so much, we ask that you continue to work to improve the lives and dignity of those who have so little around the world," Bishop Ricard and Hackett said in the letter, sent to Senate conferees on a bill appropriating funds for foreign operations. The letter outlined the bishops' position on several international funding issues before the Senate conferees.

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Report: U.S. faces crisis in care for aging population with dementia

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With an aging population increasingly affected by dementia and a shrinking corps of available caregivers, the United States is facing "the perfect demographic storm in about six years," according to a Catholic member of the President's Council on Bioethics. But, unlike some hurricanes whose impact can be less than predicted, this storm "is unlikely to veer off harmlessly," said Mary Ann Glendon, a law professor at Harvard University. "Its worst effects can be muted, but only if we start planning now, as a society and in our families." Glendon and other members of the council participated in a Sept. 29 telephone news conference to talk about the council's seventh report since its creation in 2001. The report was released that day. The report, "Taking Care: Ethical Caregiving in Our Aging Society," focuses primarily on the care of people with dementia -- currently estimated at 4 million Americans, but expected to triple by mid-century.

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Catholic activists found guilty of trespassing, damaging property

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (CNS) -- A federal jury in Binghamton Sept. 26 found Catholic activists known as the St. Patrick's Four guilty of misdemeanor charges of trespassing and damaging federal property for pouring blood throughout the foyer of a military recruiting center in Lansing on St. Patrick's Day in 2003. Danny Burns, Teresa Grady, Clare Grady and Peter De Mott -- all members of the Ithaca Catholic Worker community -- poured blood on the wall, on the floor, on posters and on the flag at the center. At the time, the U.S. was on the cusp of invading Iraq, and the four said they took the action because they were answering what they heard as desperate pleas from the Iraqi people. They were found not guilty on the most serious charge facing them -- "conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States by threat, intimidation and force." Conviction on that charge carried a possible six-year sentence in federal prison. Each of the four was found guilty of two misdemeanor counts and could be sentenced to up to one year in federal prison, though it was likely they would go to jail for several months. De Mott, Burns and Clare Grady were convicted of an additional count of trespassing.

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Southeast Texas Catholics make plans for rebuilding

BEAUMONT, Texas (CNS) -- While the Diocese of Beaumont makes plans to get back on its feet in the wake of Hurricane Rita, Bishop Curtis J. Guillory urged southeast Texas Catholics to cooperate with civil authorities by not returning to devastated areas permanently until communities are livable. "Our first responsibility is to act with prudence and wisdom in securing the safety and well-being of all southeast Texans," Bishop Guillory said in a Sept. 29 statement. "Resources are being strained to provide for workers needed for rebuilding and for those who are unable to leave. It is important for all of us to be part of the solution and not part of the problem." Administrative staff members of the Beaumont Diocese have set up temporary offices in Houston, with space and telephone lines being provided by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. All Catholic schools in the Beaumont Diocese remained closed because they lacked water, sewer or electricity.

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Cardinal, three others ban mission from using Catholic facilities

CHICAGO (CNS) -- When Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki was pastor of St. Constance Parish in Chicago, he knew the Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission was using parish facilities for prayer meetings and other events. Now the mission has been banned from using Catholic facilities and portraying itself as Catholic by Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago; Archbishop Jerome G. Hanus of Dubuque, Iowa; Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wis.; and Bishop Thomas G. Doran of Rockford. The moves, all announced in September, come amid complaints by relatives of mission members that the group had isolated their family members and convinced them that they will be condemned by God if they leave. "Over the past several years, I have heard many stories of a deepening of the spiritual life from Catholics who have been part of this group," Cardinal George wrote in a Sept. 22 statement. "I have also heard stories from those who claim it is coercive of its members and theologically inadequate or even false."

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Under new chief, court hears cases on religious rights, end of life

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As if having a new chief justice and soon one new associate justice on the Supreme Court weren't enough, the October term also will bring a busy session of cases that have implications for churches and their interests. The justices were starting their first week with a case on the constitutionality of Oregon's law permitting assisted suicide. Farthest out on the court's calendar to date is a case just accepted for early 2006 that raises questions about a campaign finance law that restricted the type of ads Wisconsin Right to Life was allowed to run during last year's congressional election campaign. In between, the docket includes cases dealing with how the death penalty is applied in different states and laws affecting minors who want abortions and protesters outside abortion clinics. After opening Oct. 3 with new Chief Justice John Roberts presiding, the court's makeup will change again, perhaps as soon as this fall. When she announced her retirement in June, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said she would stay until her replacement is on the bench.

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Cardinal laments 'decidedly mixed' progress on respect for life

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The nation's progress toward a culture in which every human life is respected and defended is "decidedly mixed," Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore said in a statement marking Respect Life Sunday, Oct. 2. "The 'healing arts' are moving beyond the field of healing and into an ethical minefield, where technical knowledge can be used as much to demean life as to serve it," said the cardinal, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. As examples, he cited moves toward assisted suicide, "immoral and speculative research" on embryos to produce stem cells, the production and eventual destruction of embryos for in vitro fertilization and the invention by drug companies of "ever new ways to block human reproductive capacity." Cardinal Keeler said, "As Catholics we know that the truth of human life is infinitely greater than any narrow view that dismisses some lives as disposable."

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Clapping, cheering, cries accompany pope at children's hospital

ROME (CNS) -- Accompanied by the sounds of clapping, cheering and some tiny, piercing cries, Pope Benedict XVI visited Rome's only children's hospital, the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) Hospital. The pope spent almost two hours at the hospital Sept. 30, speaking briefly to top staff members, but mostly greeting the small patients and their parents in patient rooms, the corridors and courtyard. Some of the patients were smiling broadly, some were sad and several were just plain sleepy, snuggling into a mother's or father's arms as the pope kissed their foreheads and blessed them. The pope said he wanted Bambino Gesu to be the first hospital he visited as pope not only because it is a Vatican-related institution, but also "to give witness myself to Jesus' love for children, a love which flows spontaneously from the heart and which the Christian spirit increases and reinforces." Pope Benedict said, "In every suffering person, and even more if he or she is small and defenseless, it is Jesus who welcomes us and awaits our love."

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Swiss bishops' official criticizes defeatism among Catholics

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- The secretary-general of the Swiss bishops' conference criticized defeatism among local Catholics and said the church had a generational problem. "We should react to the resignation and fatalism shown by many pastoral workers ... defeatism isn't Christian," said Father Agnell Rickenmann, bishops' conference secretary-general. "Our church is marked by a kind of alarmism. We need to go back to essentials: the joy of living our faith, trusting in God and showing solidarity with the universal church," he said. In a French-language interview with Switzerland's Apic news agency, Father Rickenmann said some Catholics had "set themselves up as experts, believing they possess full truth," and had called for the abolition of celibacy and the ordination of women as "part of a global package of demands," rather than engaging in "calm discussion." The priest said, "It's true we're seeing a generational problem in the church."

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Quiet as a tomb no more: Vatican hopes crowds visit sarcophagi museum

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- By far, the Vatican Museums' most popular destinations are the Raphael Rooms and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Visitors pack themselves in, wall-to-wall, to revel in the splendor of the artists' colorful frescoes of biblical scenes. But the museums' corner gallery housing mammoth, carved marble sarcophagi depicting equally unique scenes from the Bible has, up to now, been quieter than a tomb. However, this early Christian funerary art gallery, called the Pio Christian Museum, is hoping to come back to life with a new initiative sponsored by the Vatican Museums, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the United Bible Societies. The permanent exhibit of sculpted stone caskets is now supplemented with "didactic panels that give a biblical reading" of the carved friezes, said Francesco Buranelli, director of the Vatican Museums. The explanatory placards together with a beautifully illustrated free guide will allow visitors to "understand the biblical sources of inspiration" for the carvings, he said at a press conference to inaugurate the new project. The guide, called "The Engraved Word: The Bible at the Beginning of Christian Art," merges fourth-century Roman funerary art and sacred Scripture.

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At least 13 teens killed as bus crashes on way to Polish shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- At least 13 teenagers were killed and 50 injured in a crash during a school pilgrimage from the eastern Archdiocese of Bialystok to Poland's national Marian shrine of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa. The Polish Press Agency said Sept. 30 the number of fatalities was expected to rise after the early morning tragedy, in which the pilgrims' bus collided head-on with a truck on a wet road between Bialystok and Warsaw. The agency added that police were still trying to identify numerous victims from the bus, which burst into flames on impact. It reported that students and teachers from the two local high schools were in shock. Bialystok Mayor Ryszard Tur announced three days of mourning and asked theaters and sports centers to close. Pauline Father Bogdan Waliczek, prior of the Jasna Gora monastery, said preparations were under way for a memorial Mass at the Marian shrine.

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Panelists say religion could shape future of British politics

LONDON (CNS) -- Britain is undergoing a revival in religious faith that could shape the future political landscape of the country, said panelists on a British television program. Evidence that a "new force" has entered British politics was presented in a program called "God and the Politicians," aired by the British Broadcasting Corp. Sept. 28. Moderator David Aaronovitch said recent events indicated that "political religion was on the march" in Britain for the first time in more than a century. He cited the ousting of Labor Party politician Lorna Fitzsimons by a Muslim block vote because of her support for the Iraq War and membership in a group called "Friends of Israel." Aaronovitch said that "some major figures in British life now fear the rise of faith politics." He said, "It isn't the threat of bombs or religious violence that alarms them but the creeping influence on our laws and the way we live our lives." Aaronovitch questioned Catholic, Anglican, Jewish and Muslim leaders to investigate the extent of the phenomenon.

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Hellwig, noted theologian and author, dies after suffering stroke

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Noted theologian and author Monika Hellwig died at Washington Hospital Center Sept. 30 after suffering a severe stroke. She was 74 years old. She had just recently retired as president and executive director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Hellwig taught theology for more than 30 years at Georgetown University before taking up the ACCU post. Just days before her death she had taken up a new position as a research fellow at the university's Woodstock Theological Center. A former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, she received numerous honors and awards for her work, including more than 30 honorary degrees.

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Four Chinese bishops cannot attend synod in Rome, says news agency

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The four bishops from mainland China invited to attend the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican cannot attend, reported UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand. A Catholic source close to Bishop Joseph Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar told UCA News Sept. 30 that the bishop's application for a passport had not been approved by the Chinese government, so it was "impossible for him to travel." According to the source, religious affairs officials told Bishop Wei, "Once the diplomatic issue of China and the Holy See is resolved, China will not keep Chinese bishops from attending." The same source quoted the 47-year-old bishop of the underground Catholic community as saying, "I respect the government's decision, but I still want to go if they change their mind." Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai confirmed that he did not receive government approval to go to Rome for the Oct. 2-23 synod, nor was any explanation given to him. As a result, he told UCA News Sept. 30, he cannot attend the synod.

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Archbishop says he's not speaking for Vatican on gays in seminaries

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The archbishop overseeing a Vatican-run inspection of U.S. seminaries said that he was not speaking for the Vatican or the U.S. bishops when he said he opposed admitting to seminaries men who have engaged in homosexual activity in the past or who have strong homosexual tendencies. "I was reflecting my personal opinion and offering a prudential practice based on 12 years experience as rector (president) of two U.S. seminaries," said Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, in a Sept. 30 statement. The archbishop is coordinator of the apostolic visitations of more than 220 U.S. seminaries and houses of formation that began this academic year under the supervision of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education and with the cooperation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. His statement was posted on the USCCB Web site. It did not retract his position regarding the suitability of homosexual candidates for seminary admission.

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Catholic women honor columnist Bosco for service, leadership

ATLANTA (CNS) -- Although her life has been pierced with sorrow, Antoinette Bosco's eyes sparkle when she talks, her laughter is warm and her presence is engaging. The author and longtime columnist for Catholic News Service received the Distinguished Service Award Sept. 16 from the National Council of Catholic Women for her leadership and service to the Catholic Church and the community. The award was presented at a luncheon where she was the keynote speaker during the biennial convention of the NCCW held in Atlanta Sept. 15-18. One wouldn't suspect the weight of tragedy the petite 77-year-old has carried, but she acknowledges that her life -- a mixture of sorrow and joy -- is supported by her faith in God, which continues to deepen and grow to sustain her. "Don't ever forget how to laugh. That is the ground and the moisture from which you can grow roses from the thorns," she said to the women attending the convention.


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