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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Apr-8-2011

By Catholic News Service


State limits on child sex abuse cases make for a confusing picture

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When two men alleged that they had been abused in Texas during the 1970s and '80s by a man associated with the youth wing of the Knights of Columbus, they filed suit not in Texas but in Connecticut, where the Knights' national headquarters is located. And when Delaware opened up a two-year window that allowed child sex abuse lawsuits that would have previously been barred under the state's statute of limitations, some of the lawsuits filed dealt with abuse that was alleged to have taken place outside of Delaware. Those cases point up the confusion and legal maneuvers that have resulted from the wide array of ever-changing state laws affecting the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases. "Attorneys will definitely forum-shop," said Anthony R. Picarello Jr., general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. A civil claim that had been legally prohibited for many years in one state might be resurrected in another with the passage of legislation removing the statute of limitations retroactively or extending the age by which a person alleging abuse must file suit. A statute of limitations designates the number of years that must pass before a particular criminal act can no longer be prosecuted or a particular civil action can no longer be filed. In cases of child sex abuse, the number of years begins only when the victim reaches the age of majority; other factors, such as repressed memories, can affect when the clock begins to run as well. Picarello said statutes of limitations are based in part on fairness, as an acknowledgment that "it is almost impossible to defend against claims that are very old, and correspondingly difficult for judges and juries to have everything they need to do their jobs effectively."

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Church culture must change after sex abuse scandal, archbishop says

MILWAUKEE (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Dublin "got it spectacularly wrong" in not assuming responsibility for the harm done through the clergy abuse crisis, the head of the archdiocese told an international conference on the clergy sex abuse scandal April 4. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the opening speaker during a two-day conference at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, said he "cannot accept a situation where no one need assume responsibility in the face of terrible damage done to children in the church." Other conference speakers at the conference, "Harm, Hope and Healing: International Dialogue on the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal," included Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, as well as a group of abuse victims, priests and various experts. Archbishop Martin also was harsh in his assessment of most of the priest abusers he had met since becoming archbishop of Dublin in 2004. "I can honestly say that with perhaps two exceptions, I have not encountered a real and unconditional admission of guilt and responsibility on the part of priest offenders in my diocese," the archbishop said. "Survivors have repeatedly told me that one of the greatest insults and hurts they have experienced is to see the lack of real remorse on the part of offenders even when they plead guilty in court." The Irish archbishop, who served as a Vatican diplomat to the United Nations before being reassigned to his homeland during Dublin's clergy abuse scandal, said a Feb. 20 "liturgy of lament and repentance" at the Dublin cathedral "was a truly restorative moment" for many abuse survivors, who "felt that they had encountered in it a church which was beginning to identify with their hurt and their journey. But there are so many survivors who have not yet had that experience of being surrounded by a church in lament, rather than a church still wanting to be in charge."

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Immigration crisis in Italy puts church teaching to the test

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The new flow of North African immigrants into Italy is putting the Vatican's teaching on immigration to the test. More than 22,000 "boat people," many fleeing political unrest in Tunisia and Libya, have arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa this year. The fighting in Libya has spurred more people to flee in recent days. Not all survive the trip: About 150 people drowned April 6 when a migrant boat capsized in rough seas. Church leaders have underlined the broad right to emigrate, the specific rights of refugees and the responsibility of wealthier nations to welcome those in need. But their moral advocacy has provoked criticism and even derision among some Italians, who have suggested that the Vatican and other religious institutions be the first to open their doors to the wave of immigrants. Because it lies only 90 miles off the North African coast, Lampedusa has long been the gateway to Europe for North Africans. Residents have complained that the island's infrastructure is overwhelmed, and in response Italian leaders have begun relocating the new arrivals to other Italian regions -- whose residents don't seem to want them, either. The government of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has proposed financial aid to Tunisia in a bid to halt the immigration and repatriate the Tunisians who have recently arrived in Italy. The issue, meanwhile, has become a political football among Italians. Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops' conference, has called on Europe to recognize that Italy cannot handle the migration flow by itself, and that Lampedusa is part of the European Union's southern coast. European bishops meeting April 3 agreed, saying that the crisis "requires the solidarity of all European countries and their institutions."

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Papal preacher says true charity requires inner love, outer action

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Genuine love for others is the cornerstone of charity, but it needs to be backed up by concrete action to be a complete expression of God's love for humanity, the papal preacher said. In a Lenten meditation released by the Vatican April 8, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa explained that Christian charity should be characterized by "a love that is both sincere and active; a love from the heart and a love, so to speak, of the hands." Father Cantalamessa warned that those who perform charitable acts without a heartfelt desire to help others may be merely hiding less virtuous motivations such as "selfishness, the use of others for their own purposes, or simply a guilty conscience." He cited St. Paul's Letter to the Romans in which he calls on Christians to act with charity without hypocrisy. The call for "a love that is true, authentic and not fake" was the cornerstone of St. Paul's message, Father Cantalamessa said. "Hypocritical love," the papal preacher said, "is that which does good works without feeling, that shows off to the outside something that is not actually felt in the heart." With this in mind, however, it would be a "fatal error" to "hide within one's inner charity, using it as a sort of alibi to avoid charitable actions," he said.

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Pope says popular piety with liturgy key for Latin American church

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Processions, shrines and other forms of popular piety common to Latin American countries should be encouraged but supported by solid faith and adherence to liturgy, Pope Benedict XVI said. The popular expression of the Catholic faith "is rooted in the very beginning of the evangelization of that land," and so should be respected but also guided, the pope said April 8 during a meeting with members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. The theme of the commission gathering was: "The impact of popular piety on the evangelization of Latin America." Pope Benedict said that the many displays of popular piety that are so ingrained in Latin American culture must be considered an essential part of the new evangelization undertaken by the bishops of Central and South America and the Caribbean. "Properly accompanied," the pope said, these simple expressions of faith can "create a fruitful encounter with God" as well as increased devotion to the Virgin Mary, the pope and the church itself. Pope Benedict emphasized, however, that real faith must be the source of popular piety, "so that it is not reduced to a simple cultural expression of a particular region." He said that church liturgy should be the framework for any popular manifestation, which could, in turn, illustrate and make more understandable the various aspects of the liturgy.

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Catholics venerate St. John Bosco relic after arrival in Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan (CNS) -- Hundreds of Taiwanese Catholics, joined by immigrant Filipino workers, flocked to venerate a relic of St. John Bosco and followed the local custom of burning firecrackers to welcome its arrival. The relic, the right palm of the saint covered by a vestment, was contained in a casket holding a life-size wax replica of the saint's body. The clear casket was carried by 10 laypeople into St. John Bosco Church in Taipei April 7. They passed through flower baskets sent from Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou and other senior government officials as they entered the church, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. Ma is the first Catholic elected president of Taiwan. "Don't need to be afraid of what you see. It is a replica, not the corpse of the saint, and the casket is also not a coffin," Father Simon Lam Chung-wai, head of the Salesians of Don Bosco's China province, told the waiting faithful. The China province comprises mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Father Lam said some Catholics in Hong Kong and Macau feel uncomfortable seeing the relic, because a coffin is regarded as unlucky by some Chinese. "But it is easier for the faithful to associate what the saint has preached on the meaning of death when they see a statue lying there," the priest explained.

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Academy in Rome celebrates historic stargazing with Vatican astronomer

ROME (CNS) -- Top Renaissance scientists and scholars gathered on a grassy hill overlooking Rome one starry spring night 400 years ago to gaze into a unique innovation by Galileo Galilei: the telescope. "This was really an exciting event. This was the first time that Galileo showed off his telescope in public to the educated people of Rome, which was the center of culture in Italy at that time," said Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, Vatican astronomer, as he stood on the same knoll. The original gathering April 14, 1611, was sponsored by the world's oldest scientific academy -- the National Academy of Lincei -- of which Galileo was a member. Today, the grassy hill is part of the American Academy in Rome, which wanted to celebrate its connection to Galileo with a number of events that included an April 7 discussion of faith and science with Brother Consolmagno. Christopher Celenza, the director of the American Academy, told Catholic News Service that the Renaissance scholars "gathered here to celebrate Galileo and the invention of what they termed at this meeting, the telescope. It was the first time the word telescope was used" to refer to the device Galileo had perfected in 1609 and started using to study the heavens.

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Pakistani archbishop calls for arrest of US pastor over Quran burning

LONDON (CNS) -- The president of the Pakistani bishops' conference has called for the arrest of a U.S. Protestant pastor whose decision to burn the Islamic sacred book has caused fury in the Muslim world and the deaths of more than 20 people. Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, conference president, said the U.S. government should seek to diffuse mounting tensions by detaining the Rev. Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center Church in Gainesville, Fla., who oversaw the burning of the Quran by the Rev. Wayne Sapp, his assistant. In an April 6 statement, U.S. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami joined the Pakistani archbishop, religious leaders around the world and other church leaders in Florida and elsewhere in the United States in deploring the book burning, calling it "reprehensible." Archbishop Saldanha told the British branch of Aid to the Church in Need that "the U.S. government should detain the pastor for some time. The organization is a Catholic charity for persecuted Christians around the world." He said in an April 4 telephone interview: "In view of the effects his actions have had all over the world, he should be controlled and understand the harm that has been done." The archbishop said: "The U.S. government talks about religious freedom -- but we call upon the U.S. government to prevent such actions by extremists and other fundamentalist Christians." He added that although there had been no reports of attacks on Pakistani Christians by Muslims outraged by the Quran burning, he said he feared that the situation "could become ugly." Rev. Jones authorized a copy of the Quran to be soaked in gasoline and burned March 20.

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Mexican couple in Minnesota weighs life in shadow of immigration law

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- For Miguel and Gabriela, leaving Mexico and ultimately settling in Minnesota a decade ago was a wrenching process, in part made necessary by the diagnosis of lupus that explained Miguel's persistent sickness. But though they say life is mostly better for them in the United States, the couple from Sacred Heart Parish in St. Paul said they live in constant fear of being arrested for being in the country without documents and of then being separated. The couple spoke with The Catholic Spirit and Espiritu Catholic, the English- and Spanish-language newspapers of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, on the condition their real names not be used because they worry about being targeted by immigration enforcement authorities. In their apartment decorated with a wedding photo, an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a giant carved wood rosary, Miguel, 37, and Gabriela, 40, gave a matter-of-fact description of their life in Mexico. "We were living with Miguel's father and the house was very small. There were a lot of family members living in the house and not much space," Gabriela explained. "Miguel had to work all day, and there was little money. He worked at a gas station, and after that he worked at a brewery. He earned about 1,000 pesos ($84) a month, 250 pesos ($21) a week, working 10 to 12 hours a day." By the time they had two children, the financial squeeze was very tight. "We didn't have money to pay rent or for the children's education," Miguel said. That led them to follow millions of others across the U.S. border in hopes of "better work, a better life and better everything," Gabriela said. "We didn't even have a place of our own to live."


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