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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-13-2010

By Catholic News Service


Bishops decry bill to lift statute of limitations on civil abuse suits

HARTFORD, Conn. (CNS) -- Connecticut's Catholic bishops are urging Catholics and others to speak out against a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits in cases of sexual abuse. Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport and Bishop Michael R. Cote of Norwich sent notices to all pastors April 8, requesting their help in mounting a campaign opposing a measure in the House that would make Connecticut the only state without a statute of limitations for the filing of sexual abuse claims concerning minors. "The passage of this legislation could potentially have a devastating financial effect on the Catholic dioceses of Connecticut, including parish assets and those of other Catholic service organizations," said the letter to pastors. "We all realize the serious nature of these crimes," it said. "However, the passage of this law could result in claims that are 50, 60 or 70 years old, which are impossible to adequately defend in court." The bishops said H.B. 5473, which "also targets the Catholic Church across the state and has potentially disastrous fallout for all of us," could be voted on in the General Assembly within two weeks.

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For sexton, Rhode Island flood's damage to church is heartbreaking

WEST WARWICK, R.I. (CNS) -- The scene was heartbreaking for Paul Boisclair, sexton at Sacred Heart Church in West Warwick. He was surveying the scope of the damage caused days earlier when the Pawtuxet River overflowed its banks in record flooding that left hundreds of residents without power and roadways closed across the state for several days. "This is unbelievable, just total destruction," said Boisclair, as he stepped into the small basement chapel where 20-30 parishioners attended Mass each morning. It seemed as if the Pawtuxet River pounded Sacred Heart with all its might. In the worst flooding to hit Rhode Island in at least 200 years, the river rose swiftly March 30, cresting at just under 21 feet as it made its way toward the white, stucco, Tuscan-style church about 250 feet away. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who flew over the flooded state by helicopter April 2, has pledged the U.S. government will help Rhode Island recover over the next several months.

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New film biography of Archbishop Sheen released for parish screenings

PEORIA, Ill. (CNS) -- His teaching inspired millions in the 20th century, and now producers of the documentary "Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Servant of All" are hopeful their film will introduce the famed media pioneer and his message to new generations. The newly released film biography of Archbishop Sheen had its broadcast debut on Easter Sunday on public television station WTTW in Chicago. After airings later in April in Peoria and Washington, the documentary will be marketed nationally through public screenings at the parish and regional levels. "Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is one of the most influential voices of the 20th century," said Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation who also served as the film's executive producer. In remarks opening the documentary, Msgr. Deptula added that "today few seem to understand or remember the tremendous impact he made on our nation and in our world." The film seeks to remedy that through a fast-paced retelling of the life story of Archbishop Sheen. A priest of the Diocese of Peoria, Archbishop Sheen became known around the world through his radio and television programs -- including "Life is Worth Living" -- as well as numerous books, and promotion of Catholic efforts in mission lands.

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Notre Dame reaffirms life commitment, issues guide on charitable works

NOTRE DAME, Ind. (CNS) -- The University of Notre Dame has issued an institutional statement affirming its commitment to the defense of human life at all its stages and adopted new principles governing the university's charitable activity. "Consistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church on such issues as abortion, research involving human embryos, euthanasia, the death penalty and other related life issues, the University of Notre Dame recognizes and upholds the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death," said the statement, which was released April 8. "The statement articulates what always has been the case: that Notre Dame fully embraces Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life," said Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, in a statement. The institutional statement and the principles on charitable activity, also issued April 8, were among recommendations made in January to Father Jenkins by the university's Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life and designed to "broaden and deepen the pro-life culture" at the university.

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USCCB secretariat offers 10 tips to prevent sexual abuse of minors

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Child sexual abuse can be prevented, although it requires vigilance by adults to make sure it is, according to the head of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection. To mark Child Abuse Prevention Month, observed each April, Teresa Kettelkamp, executive director of the secretariat, offered 10 tips to prevent abuse and to prevent dismissing the gravity of the abuse if it does occur. Among the tips are: "No one has the right to have access to children" and "Feeling heard leads toward healing." In an announcement listing the tips, Kettelkamp said she developed them after reviewing what the church has learned in facing the clergy sexual abuse problem. In 2002, the U.S. bishops adopted the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" in response to reports of clergy sexual abuse of children. Since then, each April, child protection staff in dioceses nationwide re-examine and publicize efforts for child protection.

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Weigel says battle over nature, dignity of life part of US culture war

NOTRE DAME, Ind. (CNS) -- The United States is currently engaged in a "great culture war" that involves "a battle over the nature and dignity of the human person," author and scholar George Weigel told a participants at a pro-life conference organized by University of Notre Dame students. On one side are those who say everything in the human condition is "plastic, malleable, changeable, improvable," he said. On the other side are those who say moral truths are built into the world and into human beings that they can know by reason and which teach them how to live as individuals and citizens, he said. Weigel, who is the biographer of Pope John Paul II, delivered an address titled "Pro-life Catholics in President Obama's America" on the second day of the annual Notre Dame Right to Life Collegiate Conference April 9-10.

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Vatican's Medjugorje commission meets; members named

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican commission studying the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina held its first meeting in late March. While the Vatican press office provided no details about the meeting, it published the names of the commission members April 13. The Vatican had announced March 17 that at the request of the bishops of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had established an international commission to investigate the claims of six young people who said Mary appeared to them daily beginning in 1981. The doctrinal congregation appointed retired Cardinal Camillo Ruini, former papal vicar of Rome, to head the commission. The Vatican said the commission members include: Slovakian Cardinal Jozef Tomko, retired prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, retired president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts; and Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes and former secretary of the doctrinal congregation.

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Pope is open to private meeting with sex abuse victims, says spokesman

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI is open to meeting with victims of sexual abuse by clergy, but only far from the media spotlight in a private setting that is conducive to reflection and discretion, said the Vatican spokesman. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told journalists that he could not confirm whether the pope would meet with sex abuse victims during his apostolic visit to Malta April 17-18. "Time is very short and the program is very intense," he said during a press conference April 13 detailing the pope's itinerary, which will span just 26 hours on the ground. Father Lombardi said the pope has already expressed his wish to meet with more victims, and like previous meetings with victims in Washington and Sydney, Australia, a potential meeting in Malta would not appear on the official schedule. "It's not something that is put in a program and announced" ahead of time, he said, adding that he would inform the media immediately when and "if there is something significant to say."

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In Damascus, Iraqi refugees question North American church leaders

DAMASCUS, Syria (CNS) -- About 150 Iraqi Christian refugees gathered with excitement outside the Melkite Catholic compound in Damascus. Many of the women were dressed in black, a sign of mourning for a husband or family member lost to violence in Iraq -- the reason why each of them is now a refugee. The women had come to see North American Catholic leaders, who were being given a tour of the compound that includes a health clinic and dispensary for the poor, classrooms and a kitchen where a daily meal is prepared for more than 400 families -- mostly Iraqi Christian refugees. Taking the visitors to the kitchen, Melkite Archbishop Isidore Battikha emphasized that the food program is set up so that each family can share a meal in their own home. A family member comes to the center with containers to collect the food each day. Following the tour, a nun led the group into the gathering hall, where all eyes were riveted on the North Americans, who represented the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Through a translator, one of the refugees asked the church leaders, "What can be done for Christians who are being uprooted from Iraq?" "I think the most important thing we can do, first of all, is to be here and to see you and to let you know that you are in our hearts," said Msgr. Robert Stern, secretary-general of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. He emphasized that although the visitors represented the Catholic Church and the Vatican, "We are not politicians."

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Mexico's informal economy helps working class during economic downturn

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Vendor Luis Juarez sells "a little bit of everything" from a stall in one of the many roving "tianguis" markets that set up shop on sidewalks, streets and parking lots across Mexico. But Juarez left behind his business for a day recently to participate in a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe with other "tianguistas" -- as such vendors are known -- and other nonsalaried workers in the informal economy, where regulations and oversight are limited, the barriers to entry are minimal and wages are not guaranteed. Juarez came to give thanks -- as he does every year -- but he confessed to needing a miracle, too. "We're in crisis," Juarez said, explaining that customers are spending far less money than they have in the past. "People used to buy for a week ... now they spend a little for just that day." The Mexican economy shrank 6.8 percent in 2009, while purchasing power diminished and unemployment soared. With the economy only now starting to recover and employment growth still anemic, Juarez and his colleagues have noticed a trend: increased participation in the informal economy. "There are always more people showing up," said cheese vendor Jesus Melendez Flores.

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Philippine bishop celebrates Mass at bombed cathedral

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Bishop Martin Jumoad of Isabela celebrated Mass at his cathedral after it was damaged in bomb attacks. "I have texted church members about the Mass for the victims and a candlelighting ceremony at the plaza at 6 p.m. with our Muslim partners so we can show our collective condemnation and yearning for an end to this violence," Bishop Jumoad told the Asian church news agency UCA News April 13. Approximately 25 people, believed to be from the Abu Sayyaf rebels, dressed in police uniforms and killed nine people, including three soldiers and a policeman, in attacks in Isabela, Basilan's provincial capital. Abu Sayyaf is a militant Islamic group seeking a separate state for the minority Muslim population in the southern Philippines.

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Graffiti mars pope's German birthplace, papal billboards in Malta

MARKTL AM INN, Germany (CNS) -- A spray-painted message discovered April 13 on the birthplace of Pope Benedict XVI in southern Germany was quickly painted over, police said. A police spokesman in nearby Rosenheim confirmed the vandalism, which was discovered at dawn by a passerby, who informed police, the British news agency Reuters reported. The graffiti was on the front door of the building, a former police station where Joseph Ratzinger was born in 1927, police said. Now a museum dedicated to the pope, the building is located in the predominantly Catholic region of Bavaria near the Austrian border. Police spokesman Konrad Rutzinger said the message appeared to be connected to the abuse scandals within the Catholic Church. He declined to provide details of the graffiti's message. Graffiti also was discovered on billboards promoting Pope Benedict's April 17-18 visit to the island nation of Malta, according to The Times of Malta.

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Stevens' retirement leaves court without strongest death penalty critic

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The retirement this spring of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens leaves the court without its strongest critic of the death penalty. Just 10 days before his 90th birthday, Stevens announced April 9 that he would step down at the end of the term this summer. His departure will provide President Barack Obama with his second opportunity to name a Supreme Court justice. Justice Sonia Sotomayor replaced Justice David Souter when he retired last June. Obama was to host a meeting at the White House April 21 with key Republican and Democratic senators to discuss the vacancy. He is expected to announce a nominee quickly, with the goal of seating the new justice by the opening of the court's new term in October. Stevens' career on the court has included more than 3,500 opinions, including some on which his views have shifted during his 35-year career, notably on capital punishment. He also wrote some of the court's significant opinions or dissents on First Amendment issues including prayer in schools, obscenity and public display of the Ten Commandments. On abortion-related cases, his was a consistent vote to uphold Roe v. Wade and limit efforts to regulate abortion.

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Vatican secretary of state says homosexuality, pedophilia related

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican secretary of state told reporters in Chile that no serious study has ever shown a connection between celibacy and pedophilia, but many psychologists and psychiatrists believe there is a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was visiting Chile April 6-12 to participate in events marking the country's bicentennial and to demonstrate Pope Benedict XVI's solidarity with victims of a Feb. 27 earthquake, made the remarks to reporters in Santiago. "Many psychologists and many psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and pedophilia, but many others have shown, and they told me recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia," the cardinal said after giving the opening talk at a meeting of the Chilean bishops' conference. Cardinal Bertone told reporters that pedophilia is a pathology that "touches all categories of people," including priests, but "in a lower percentage" than the general population. Still, he said, "it is very serious, it is scandalous" that there are priests who abuse minors. The cardinal also confirmed that Pope Benedict is reviewing the church's universal norms for handling accusations of sex abuse against clergy. He gave no details about what revisions would be made.

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Bishop Camacho of Northern Mariana Islands retires at age 76

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Bishop Tomas A. Camacho, a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who lives farther from the USCCB's Washington headquarters than nearly any other U.S. bishop, retired April 6. As head of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa in the Northern Mariana Islands since 1984, Bishop Camacho lives on the island of Saipan, located more than 7,700 miles from Washington. Guam, a U.S. territory, and the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth, make up the Mariana Islands. Only Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of Agana, Guam, lives farther from Washington, at about 7,900 miles. Bishop Camacho, who turned 76 last September, was born in Chalan Kanoa and ordained as the second local Catholic priest on June 14, 1961. He was named the first bishop of Chalan Kanoa when the diocese was created on Nov. 8, 1984, and was ordained a bishop on Jan. 13, 1985.

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Brazilian jury gives 30 years to man accused of ordering nun's murder

SAO PAULO, Brazil (CNS) -- A man accused of ordering the killing of Sister Dorothy Stang in a remote region of the Amazon forest in 2005 was sentenced to 30 years in jail after a jury in Belem deliberated for 15 hours April 12. Rancher Vitalmiro "Bida" Bastos de Moura was found guilty of ordering the killing of Sister Dorothy, 73, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur known for her fight against large landowners in the Amazon region. De Moura had been tried for the same crime twice before; he was found guilty the first time and innocent the second. The second trial, however, was annulled after evidence surfaced that he had paid off witnesses. "This conviction sends out a strong message that impunity is ending," U.S. Notre Dame de Namur Sister Rebecca Spires told The Associated Press. Sister Rebecca said she, too, had been threatened because of her work with the local peasants.


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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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