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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-8-2012

By Catholic News Service


New program seeks healing for all in wake of child sex abuse crisis

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Church action following the clergy sexual abuse scandal is most importantly about justice for the victims. But it's also about healing -- not only for the victims, but for the entire church community. With that in mind the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has begun a new initiative, "Honesty, Healing and Hope in Christ: Confronting Sexual Violence in Our Archdiocese." The plan, which consists of four phases implemented over six months, is designed to address the feelings and responses experienced when final resolutions about clergy are announced and going forward. Coordinating the initiative is Mary Achilles, who served as victims advocate for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for a decade, and who is the victims advocate for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. "This is all about the parishioners, people who have been impacted," Achilles said at a May 4 news conference. "As Catholics, we have been battered by this experience, and our sense of the integrity of the process has been robbed. This is an opportunity, a leaping off point, letting people get their arms around the sex abuse scandal, look at it honestly and in a way that people can have an opportunity to voice their concerns, look at remedies and actions that can begin the healing process," she added. "Nothing ends today; today is the beginning." Achilles and her committee have put together a binder that was given to the clergy that covers a multitude of scenarios and suggestions, including how the news should be broken that a former priest of the parish has either been restored to ministry or permanently removed.

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Catholics urged to affirm traditional marriage in North Carolina vote

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) -- North Carolina voters headed to the polls May 8 to decide whether to define traditional marriage in the state constitution -- an issue on which the state's two Catholic bishops have been vocal in urging people in their dioceses to support. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh and Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte have spent months educating the faithful about church teaching on marriage and encouraging people to vote for the constitutional amendment, ever since the measure was placed on the ballot by the Republican-led state legislature last fall. The for/against ballot question reads: "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state." Marriage is already defined that way in North Carolina law. Supporters say the constitutional amendment would shield marriage from being redefined by judges or legislators over the public's objections, because the constitution could only be changed by another vote of the people. Thirty states, including every Southern state except North Carolina, already define marriage in their constitutions as being between one man and one woman. Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Jugis coordinated their efforts through Catholic Voice North Carolina, the public policy institution of the state's two bishops. Also working for passage is Vote For Marriage NC, a coalition of local and national organizations and churches including the Christian Action League, NC Values Coalition, African-American pastors, N.C. Baptists and the National Organization for Marriage. Opponents are being led by the Coalition to Protect All N.C. Families, which has received funding from the Human Rights Campaign. The bishops say the vote presents an opportunity to explain the importance and sanctity of traditional marriage in the church and in society.

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Study shows US Catholic population stood at nearly 59 million in 2010

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Catholic population stood at 58.9 million in 2010, according to a new census of religious congregations. The number of Catholics is lower than the 62 million Catholics reported in 2000, but the difference is due to a change in the way data was collected during this go-round, said Cliff Grammich, a researcher working for the Glenmary Research Center who compiled statistics from 20,589 parishes, missions and other places with regularly scheduled weekend Masses. The 2010 U.S. Religion Census: Religious Congregations and Membership Study released May 1 showed that the number of Catholics is three times that of the country's second largest religious body, the Southern Baptist Convention, with nearly 19.9 million members. Sponsored by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, the study is conducted every 10 years and coincides with the once-a-decade U.S. census. It also collected data from Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other religious congregations. Grammich told Catholic News Service that he analyzed statistics provided by individual parishes on the number of registered households, registered individuals, infant baptisms, burials and Mass attendance to arrive at the final count. In earlier studies, less specific data was sought from individual dioceses rather than from parishes, he said. "The counts are the best that could be supported by religious data, sacramental statistics and survey data," Grammich explained.

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On 'ad limina' trip, bishops talk about defense of traditional marriage

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A few hours before voters in North Carolina were to go to the polls to vote on a referendum defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte, N.C., prayed with his brother bishops for the courage always to defend the Gospel. Bishop Jugis said May 8 that he and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh had been criticized publicly for their support of the amendment to the state constitution and for their defense of "something so beautiful and foundational to society." He said when he told another bishop about the criticism, "he encouraged me by saying, 'Wear it as a badge of honor.'" Bishop Jugis was the principal celebrant and homilist at a morning Mass in St. Peter's Basilica with Bishop Burbidge and the bishops of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. In his homily, Bishop Jugis said North Carolina was "the last state in the South" to consider a referendum on defining marriage. While marriage between same-sex couples is already illegal in North Carolina, supporters of the amendment said it would add more protection for traditional marriage. In Georgia, voters passed a similar referendum in 2004, and it was upheld by the Georgia Supreme Court in 2006. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta told Catholic News Service that the institution of marriage "predates the church and predates the state, and now people are saying it's up for grabs." Young people today are growing up in a world "that easily jettisons things that have 'lost their relevancy'" and, he said, they don't realize there are some things that can never be rendered irrelevant or redefined according to current trends or people's whims.

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Caribbean bishops urge Suriname courts to keep upholding rights laws

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CNS) -- Bishops of the Caribbean, meeting in Guyana, urged the judiciary in neighboring Suriname to continue to fulfill its obligation to uphold human rights laws. The statement was issued weeks after Suriname's National Assembly passed a controversial amnesty law that provided immunity from prosecution for several people convicted of the 1982 massacre of 15 people who opposed the military government led by Desire "Desi" Bouterse. Bouterse, who ruled the tiny South American country until 1987 and was re-elected president of a coalition government in 2010, was among those who could be granted amnesty. He is the current chairman of the 15-nation grouping of Caribbean countries known as CARICOM. The 16 members of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, representing English-, French- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean countries, said they "join many other international human rights and religious groups in urging that the judiciary of Suriname continue to fulfill its obligation to uphold human rights law." They assured "the people and church in Suriname of the prayerful support of the AEC as they seek development, peace and justice in their country." On April 10, Bishop Wilhelmus de Bekker of Paramaribo, Suriname, joined religious leaders and about 5,000 members of civic society in a silent protest march against the legislation.

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Iowa diocese's decision on scholarship for gay student causes uproar

DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNS) -- A gay student at Prince of Peace Catholic School in Clinton has been chosen to receive a scholarship from an Iowa organization that promotes tolerance, but controversy has erupted over presentation of the award. Keaton Fuller, a senior at Prince of Peace, is one of eight recipients of a Matthew Shepard Scholarship from the Eychaner Foundation based in Des Moines. The scholarship honors the memory of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old tortured and murdered in Wyoming in 1998 because he was gay. Scholarship recipients and their schools agreed in the application process to permit an Eychaner representative to present the award during graduation awards ceremonies. While Keaton can receive the scholarship award during graduation ceremonies at Prince of Peace Church May 20, a school representative -- not an Eychaner representative -- will present it. That decision has generated national press attention and confusion about the award presentation. Diocesan officials explained their decision in a May 7 press release: "The Diocese of Davenport congratulates Keaton Fuller on receiving the Matthew Shepard Scholarship. The diocese has a long-standing policy regarding guest speakers. This policy was explained to Keaton's parents at their meeting with Bishop Martin Amos last week. It states: 'We cannot allow anyone or any organization which promotes a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church to present at a diocesan institution.' Bishop Amos also expressed his congratulations for Keaton's reception of the award and recognized his hard work in achieving it. "We are glad that Keaton and his family chose to pursue his education at Prince of Peace Catholic High School in Clinton, IA.," the diocesan statement continued. "We hope that Keaton will benefit from the generous award and wish him well in his academic pursuits."

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Bishop who resigned Palm Beach post over sex abuse dead at 73

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (CNS) -- Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell, whose admission of inappropriate conduct with high school seminarians decades ago led to his resignation as head of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Fla., in 2002, died May 4 at Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner. The Irish-born bishop had lived under supervision at the abbey since his resignation. His funeral Mass was May 7, also at the abbey. Bishop O'Connell died after a long illness, less than a week before his 74th birthday. A priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., he had been bishop of Knoxville, Tenn., before being named Palm Beach bishop in 1998. At the time of his resignation, he publicly acknowledged inappropriate conduct with minors while he was at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, the Jefferson City diocesan high school seminary in Hannibal. He was spiritual director there in 1968-70 and rector from 1970 to 1988. "It always hung over me," he said at the March 8, 2002, news conference announcing his resignation. "I don't think I have ever preached without being conscious (of it). I certainly have been powerfully motivated in my preaching." The Jefferson City Diocese paid $125,000 in a settlement to a former seminarian in 1996. Two other ex-seminarians received out-of-court settlements in cases involving Bishop O'Connell in 2004. Bishop O'Connell's resignation came less than two months after the clergy sexual abuse scandal erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston. But he was the second Palm Beach bishop to resign over sex abuse allegations. In June 1998, Bishop J. Keith Symons admitted to molesting five altar boys during the 1970s and resigned.


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