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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Mar-23-2011

By Catholic News Service


South Dakota passes nation's toughest regulations on abortion

PIERRE, S.D. (CNS) -- South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a law March 22 establishing a three-day waiting period for all abortions, a time frame that exceeds other state laws that require 24-hour waiting periods. The law, effective July 1, also requires women to undergo pre-abortion counseling as a way to make certain that their decision to have an abortion was "voluntary, uncoerced and informed." Opponents of the new law immediately announced plans to challenge it. "I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives," the Republican governor said in a statement. "I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices." In a statement supporting the measure before the final vote and the governor's signature, the Diocese of Sioux Falls said it would help ensure that "mothers are as fully aware as possible of the implications and ramifications of the grave decision to terminate the most sacred gift of life." In neighboring North Dakota, members of that state's Catholic conference testified March 14 in favor of legislation that would strengthen and clarify the state's laws on abortion. The conference, based in the state capital of Bismarck, praised the Legislature for leading the nation in "enacting legislation to protect unborn life to the greatest extent possible and in protecting the well-being of women considering abortions." It noted that the most significant update in the legislation concerned the use of abortion-inducing drugs, requiring that a physician prescribe or provide the drug and be present when it is administered. Across the nation in New Hampshire, House members passed a bill March 16 requiring abortion providers to notify a parent or guardian 48 hours before performing an abortion on anyone younger than 18. Young women could avoid going to a parent by asking a judge to determine her maturity and capability to make such a decision.

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Boston Archdiocese, Daughters of St. Paul in dispute over pension funds

BOSTON (CNS) -- The Boston Archdiocese and members of the Daughters of St. Paul were scheduled to go before a mediator March 29 to resolve a number of issues in a dispute over pension funds. The religious community said that for five years, it has tried to withdraw from the archdiocesan pension fund for lay employees so that it can establish its own pension plan for its lay employees. According to The Associated Press, the sisters filed a lawsuit in December alleging that the pension fund's trustees, including Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, did not give them a full accounting of what their portion of the fund is. The sisters have asked the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to order the fund's trustees to provide a full accounting or rule that the sisters were never part of the plan and must be reimbursed for their contributions. The sisters also requested the archdiocese pay their legal fees. The sisters believe they are owed $1.37 million based on the value of the assets four years ago. A Boston Globe report said the archdiocese has declined to say what the value is, leaving that topic for mediation. Terrence Donilon, archdiocesan secretary for communications and public affairs, told Catholic News Service in an email March 23 that the archdiocese has been working "for some time" with the Daughters of St. Paul "regarding their request to withdraw from the lay pension plan." Donilon said archdiocesan officials believed they were "making progress toward resolving any outstanding concerns" and found the December lawsuit "unexpected." Since the suit was filed, he said, the archdiocese reached an agreement with the Daughters of St. Paul "on a number of issues." He also noted that the archdiocese has "a long-standing and good relationship" with the sisters. "We will resolve this disagreement through mediation and continue to work closely together in the future for the good of the church."

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Study: Catholics more tolerant than other Christians on same-sex issues

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- American Catholics are more tolerant than Americans in general and members of other Christian denominations on a variety of issues concerning homosexuals and same-sex couples, according to a study issued March 22 by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute. Catholics, when surveyed on their attitudes, are more accepting of same-sex marriage, especially when civil unions are offered as an option. They also are more likely to support laws banning employment discrimination against gays and lesbians, support homosexuals serving openly in the military, and support same-sex couples adopting children. The degree of support by Catholics on these issues is often five or more percentage points above that of Americans in general, as well as above mainline Christians and evangelical Christians, according to Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization that focuses on the intersection of religion, values and public life. The difference in attitudes based on respondents' age is even more pronounced among Catholics, according to Jones. More than twice as many Catholics under 35 as those over 65 support same-sex marriage. "Catholics are less likely (than other Christians) to have moral objections" on same-sex issues, said Daniel Cox, the institute's research director, during a March 22 conference call with reporters. "A solid majority of Catholics did not see sexual relations between two members of the same sex as a sin." The study's results were confirmed by Stephen Schneck, chairman of the politics department at The Catholic University of America, Washington, and director of the university's Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies. "Catholics are less conservative than the American public overall ... in their acceptance of same-sex relations, even in (support of) the ordination of (women) clergy," said Schneck, who added that he is opposed to same-sex marriage. The Catholic Church teaches that the dignity of homosexual individuals must be respected as well as their rights as people, such as the right to employment and freedom from unjust discrimination. But the church upholds the sanctity of traditional marriage as being only between one man and one woman.

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Suffering Jesus doesn't please but intrigues art viewers, Jesuit says

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The graphic depiction of Jesus as the suffering Man of Sorrows is not a crowd pleaser but is a crowd draw, according to a Jesuit art historian. "No one would dispute the importance of Christ's sacrificial death in Christian theology, but we are less inclined today to decorate our living rooms with bloody representations of him," said Jesuit Father Gregory Waldrop. Father Waldrop, assistant professor of art history at Fordham University in New York, moderated a March 18 panel discussion on the Man of Sorrows as part of a symposium organized by the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture in conjunction with a new exhibit at New York's Museum of Biblical Art. But he said the Man of Sorrows still resonates artistically and religiously. "It continues to attract and provoke, responding to current conditions of anguish, loss and deprivation in the world, and showing up in contemporary songs, popular images and even as a theme in artworks by high-profile, emphatically secular contemporary artists." The Man of Sorrows, a haunting image of Jesus upright, dead but not yet resurrected, swept Venice in the 13th century and continues to fascinate and puzzle biblical scholars and art historians today. The exhibit, "Passion in Venice: Crivelli to Tintoretto and Veronese," depicting the Man of Sorrows in various media through eight centuries, runs through June 12 at the museum in Manhattan.

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World needs peacemakers strengthened by faith, pope says at audience

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The world needs peace and it needs peacemakers who are strengthened by faith and committed to promoting reconciliation among peoples, Pope Benedict XVI said. During his weekly general audience at the Vatican March 23, the pope continued his series of audience talks about the doctors of the church, focusing on St. Lawrence of Brindisi, an Italian Capuchin and famed preacher. Pope Benedict said the priest, who served as a military chaplain at the beginning of the 1600s, "applied himself heroically to efforts toward peace and reconciliation between the nations and peoples of Europe." The pope said: "The moral authority he enjoyed made him an adviser who was much sought after and listened to." Pope Benedict told an estimated 10,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square for the first outdoor audience of the spring: "Today, just as in the time of St. Lawrence, the world needs peace, it needs peaceful and pacifying men and women. All those who believe in God must always be sources of peace and peacemakers." The pope said St. Lawrence had a great gift for languages and spoke German and French in addition to Italian and to the classic languages: Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Syrian.

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Thousands of refugees left homeless after fires in two camps in Nepal

KATMANDU, Nepal (CNS) -- Up to 6,000 refugees from Bhutan were left homeless after fire swept through two U.N. camps in eastern Nepal. At least 3,000 people were left without shelter and 20 were injured March 22 after a fire in Goldhap camp destroyed about 700 of 800 huts, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. Hours later, two children were injured and several thousand were made homeless in the fire at Sanichare camp. Jesuit Father Paramasivam Amalraj, Jesuit Refugee Service field director for Nepal, said more than 500 huts were reduced to ashes in 90 minutes in Goldhap camp. He said the fire also burned two Jesuit-run youth centers and a health center. Father Amalraj said the second fire destroyed about 180 huts in 45 minutes. He said aid organizations such as Caritas Nepal and the Red Cross were working to provide relief assistance to the victims. Eyewitnesses said the Goldhap fire broke out around 7:30 a.m., and, because of windy conditions, quickly spread before fire crews could arrive. It was not clear how the blaze started. A local government official said the federal government would give each victim 1,500 rupees ($21).

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Malaysia cancels plans for serial numbers on Bibles

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNS) -- The Malaysian government has called off plans to put serial numbers on Bibles printed in the Malay language following a threatened protest by Christians throughout the country. Sudhagaran Standley, a Christian based in Penang, had initiated plans for people to file charges against the government on the basis that Bibles already imprinted had been defaced. Standley called off the protest after the government backed down on its plans, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. In return for releasing some 35,100 Bibles that the government had impounded when they were imported from Indonesia about two years ago, the Home Ministry wanted to stamp each one with a serial number to control its circulation and with a message saying it was for Christian use only. On March 22, the government announced it had reached a compromise after discussions with Christian leaders. A spokesman said the Bibles would be released stamped with the words "For Christianity," but no other words or serial numbers would be included. In addition, the government has said that future Bibles published in Malay can be imported and released with the words "For Christianity." Standley said the latest development comes in light of state elections to be held soon in Sarawak, a Christian-majority state, where most of the Bibles were impounded.

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British bishop says coalition must not lose sight of limits in Libya

LONDON (CNS) -- The head of Britain's military diocese has urged restraint in the ongoing military action against Libya. Bishop Richard Moth said it was vital that coalition forces did not lose sight of the limits of their mission to protect civilians in the North African country. He said action against the armed services of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was only to defend civilians from attack. In a March 23 statement released to Catholic News Service, Bishop Moth said: "The recent decision to enforce a no-fly zone over the country in order to protect the people of Libya sent a strong and clear message to the international community as a whole. Such action must serve only to provide defense for the defenseless," he said. "It must be hoped that the necessity for the use of force is over as soon as possible and that international forces continue to make every effort to avoid loss of life and unnecessary damage to the country's infrastructure," the bishop said. He added: "I would ask every parish community in these islands to continue to keep the people of Libya in prayer that a peaceful solution may soon be found, and to pray for those servicemen and women who are working to protect innocent civilians from harm." British Prime Minister David Cameron was instrumental in securing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 to establish a "no-fly zone" and to authorize military intervention by member nations to protect Libya's civilian population at a time when Gadhafi's army was advancing on the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi.


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