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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jul-31-2012

By Catholic News Service


If mental illness a factor, shooting suspect might be 'troubled soul'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the days following the shootings at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater that left 12 people dead and 58 others wounded, speculation arose about the mental state of the suspected shooter, James Holmes. Days after the July 20 tragedy, word was leaked to news outlets that Holmes reportedly had been seeing a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado and had sent his therapist a package that included a description of a planned shooting spree. That possibility of such a package reveals a "cry for help" and perhaps indicates the suspect "was a troubled soul," Connie Rakitan, chair of the Chicago Archdiocesan Commission on Mental Illness, told Catholic News Service July 26. Sending it to a psychiatrist, and not to police, "points to the bigger issue of mental pain and mental illness," she added. A day after Rakitan spoke to CNS court papers filed by Holmes' attorneys and made public July 27 confirmed he was seeing a psychiatrist and had sent the doctor a package, although whether it had been received before the shootings was in dispute. Holmes' lawyers said the package contained communications between their client and his psychiatrist that should be kept from the public. Holmes was formally charged July 30. He faces 142 counts, which include a first-degree count for each of the 12 who died and attempted murder charges for those injured. It was not yet clear if his lawyers will mount an insanity defense.

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Government pressure on religious groups growing in US, says archbishop

NAPA, Calif. (CNS) -- Government pressure on religious entities "goes well beyond" the current federal contraceptive mandate and has become "a pattern in recent years," said Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. "It involves interfering with the conscience rights of medical providers, private employers and individual citizens," he said in a July 27 keynote address at the Napa Institute Conference. "It includes attacks on the policies, hiring practices and tax statuses of religious charities, hospitals and other ministries. These attacks are real. They're happening now. And they'll get worse as America's religious character weakens," the archbishop said in a speech titled "Building a Culture of Religious Freedom. Contempt for religious faith has been growing in America's leadership classes for many decades," he added. Americans have always been "a religious people," with millions of them taking their faith seriously, he continued, but while "religious practice remains high," America "is steadily growing more secular." "Mainline churches are losing ground. Many of our young people spurn Christianity. Many of our young adults lack any coherent moral formation," he said, and respect for the role of religion in the public square has clearly eroded. He said Catholics have to fight for what they believe about abortion, sexuality, marriage and the family, and religious liberty. "We have a duty to treat all persons with charity and justice. We have a duty to seek common ground where possible. But that's never an excuse for compromising with grave evil. ... And it's never an excuse for standing idly by while our liberty to preach and serve God in the public square is whittled away," he said.

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African-Americans, Hispanics split on legality, morality of abortion

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Although a majority of both African-Americans (51 percent) and Hispanics (61 percent) believe that having an abortion is morally wrong, the two groups split when it comes to whether abortion should be legal, according to a new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute. While two-thirds of African-Americans (67 percent) think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, less than half of Hispanics (46 percent) do so, according to the survey results released July 26 by the Washington-based institute. Asked whether the terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice" described them very well, somewhat well, not too well or not at all well, more than half (52 percent) of African-Americans and 47 percent of Hispanic respondents identified with both labels, compared to only 37 percent of all Americans who did so in an earlier poll. "Like most Americans, black Americans and Hispanic Americans bring a complex set of identities to the issue of abortion," said Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, in a national teleconference to release the survey findings July 26. The poll also asked about the respondents' political preferences and what they saw as the critical issues facing the country. Three-quarters of Hispanic Americans and 71 percent of African-Americans cited the economy as a critical issue. But they diverged on the issue of immigration, with 49 percent of Hispanics and 23 percent of black Americans naming it as a critical issue. Other issues cited as critical by more than half the respondents were the federal deficit, named by 52 percent of Hispanics and 48 percent of black Americans, and education, considered a critical issue by 50 percent of Hispanic Americans and 56 percent of African-Americans.

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Education must be for everyone, not just the privileged, priest says

BOSTON (CNS) -- Education, an important apostolate with the framework of the Society of Jesus, "must ensure the development of the entire person and of all people," Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told a Boston gathering of Jesuit educators from around the globe July 31. Education must "look to the good of everyone and not just of the privileged, to exchange know-how and not concentrate it for the benefit of the few and the disadvantage of the many, who remain poorer not only in material goods but also in knowledge," he said. "In a world in which 'knowledge is power,' we must remember the importance of 'knowing with' and of 'knowing for,'" said the priest, who is the Vatican's spokesman. He was in Boston to address the inaugural International Colloquium on Jesuit Secondary Education, the first such gathering of secondary education leaders from across the globe in the 450-year history of the Jesuits. The July 29 to Aug. 2 colloquium was being held on the campus of Boston College. Speaking on the feast day of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, Father Lombardi said the order's mission, "faithful to its origins," has always been "defined as a 'service of faith.' However, over time, this service of faith has become enriched with new characteristics, and has been seen from perspectives which have enabled it to interact with new problems." The mission of the Jesuits is part of the church's mission, Father Lombardi said, but he also emphasized that it is not the "exclusive property" of the Jesuits.

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Catholic activist's mother sets herself ablaze to protest detention

BANGKOK (CNS) -- The mother of a prominent Catholic blogger died after setting herself on fire to protest her daughter's detention for allegedly spreading anti-government propaganda, activists said. Dang Thi Kim Lieng, 64, set herself aflame near a local government office building in the southern city of Bac Lieu July 30, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. "Her wounds were very serious and she died on the way to the hospital (in Ho Chi Minh City)," said Redemptorist Father Dinh Huu Thoai, a friend of the family. Her daughter, Marie Ta Phong Tan, has been detained in jail since her arrest in September on charges of conducting propaganda against the state. The 43-year-old Catholic former policewoman was one of three bloggers arrested in a government crackdown. Their trials were scheduled to begin Aug. 7. The trio of bloggers belong to the outlawed Free Vietnamese Journalists' Club. They are accused of posting hundreds of articles that "distort and opposed" Vietnam's communist government. Their work regularly appeared on Cong Ly va Su That (Justice and Truth), a blog that addressed social justice issues. Lieng had not seen her daughter since her arrest. Local church sources said she had been worried about her daughter's upcoming trial. She also had been questioned by authorities, and her home and movements were under round-the-clock surveillance, the sources said.

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Canadian Catholic school to become bottled water-free zone

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Saskatchewan (CNS) -- It was back in October 2010 that a group of students at John Paul II Collegiate in North Battleford began their journey to make their school a bottled water-free zone. Nearly two years later, their perseverance is having a significant impact: the school soon will become a bottled water free zone as new water refilling stations have been installed. It was after a presentation by Audrey and Clarence Briand, members of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, on the environmental and societal impacts of bottled water that a group of students felt compelled to act. "I thought it would be cool to take this on," Meghan Mercer said. The Briands were part of a campaign launched by CCODP to raise awareness of the growing trend to privatize water and the importance of countering that trend by drinking from public water sources whenever possible. Mercer, along with her brother Dexter and fellow students Katrina McKinnon and Jillana Schmidt, organized the campaign to end the use of bottled water through the school's Key Club. Designed by Kiwanis International, the Key Club helps students develop leadership skills through involvement in their schools and communities. "It's our job to do social justice work in the Key Club," McKinnon explained. "Our school has a Christian base, and we are stewards not just of people, but of the environment."

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Center in Bethlehem gives trauma victims a place to seek comfort

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNS) -- Every week for the past month, when she has the money, Suha Alladin takes her 10-year-old son Mohammed, from their West Bank Village of Ma'asara to Bethlehem in a shared taxi. She tells her family and neighbors that the boy is going to the dentist. What she does not tell them is that they are going to the Wings of Hope for Trauma Organization located in an unassuming office building on a busy side street on the edge of Bethlehem's Old City. There he gets a chance to come to grips with the trauma of witnessing his father, Akram, being beaten in the family home and arrested by Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night when he was 4. After the incident, Mohammed, who already suffered from health and cognitive problems, began wetting his bed and clinging to his mother. He became fearful of strangers and exhibited aggressive behavior. Later, he had trouble in school. Alladin, 30, knows the meetings with a social worker at the center are helping her son, but she does not want the boy to be stigmatized by the fact that he is receiving psychological help. "We live in a small community," she said. "I don't want the children pointing at Mohammed and whispering that he goes to a psychologist." Alladin said the meetings have helped calm Mohammed. When people come to the family home, he is able to greet them rather than go into hiding. The Wings of Hope for Trauma Organization was founded in 2011 by Ursula Mukarker, 34, a Catholic Palestinian mental health practitioner, after she had worked with Wings of Hope Germany. The organization focuses on treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder, counsels adults and children with trauma and trains professionals to identify symptoms of PTDS and how to address the effects of trauma.

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Catholics support plan that reduces mother-to-child transmission of HIV

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic health care workers are offering enthusiastic support to an ambitious global plan to stop the transmission of the virus that causes AIDS from pregnant mothers to their children. Discussed during the XIX International AIDS Conference July 22-27 in Washington, the plan involves increasing the availability of the drugs that reduce HIV levels in the body so that transmission does not occur. In wealthy countries, the availability of such drugs has lowered transmission rates to virtually zero, but that's not the case in countries most heavily affected by the HIV epidemic. "We really do have hope that we can stop AIDS in children," said Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, a special adviser on HIV and AIDS to Caritas Internationalis who sits on the 15-member international steering committee that is supervising the program. In 2010, 390,000 children were born with HIV and more than 700 children died each day, almost all of them in India and 21 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, according to the United Nations. As a result, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS -- known as UNAIDS -- in 2011 announced a plan to prevent transmission of the disease to children by assuring that pregnant women get the testing, treatment and counseling they need to stop the virus from spreading. With funding from the U.N. and the U.S. government, The Global Plan towards the Elimination of New Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping their Mothers Alive takes aim at the 22 hardest hit nations. Msgr. Vitillo said an important key to the program's success is testing women early, so that any who are found to carry the virus can be put on antiretroviral medications. The women then continue the medication through birth and breast-feeding. While initial programs had discontinued women once the child stopped nursing, Msgr. Vitillo said that approach has been largely discarded in favor of keeping the woman on antiretroviral drugs indefinitely. "We don't want to save the children and then have them lose their mothers," Msgr. Vitillo told Catholic News Service.

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Greensburg vicar general named to succeed Bishop Trautman in Erie

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., July 31 and appointed Msgr. Lawrence T. Persico, vicar general and chancellor of the Diocese of Greensburg, Pa., to succeed him. The appointment and resignation were announced in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop Trautman, 76, had headed the Erie Diocese since 1990 and served as an auxiliary bishop in Buffalo, N.Y., for five years before that. Bishop-designate Persico, 61, was born in Monessen, Pa., and ordained a priest of the Greensburg Diocese on April 30, 1977. He has served as pastor of St. James Parish in New Alexandria, Pa., since 1998, chancellor of the diocese since 1989 and vicar general since 2005. Bishop-designate Persico will be ordained a bishop and installed as head of the Erie Diocese at 2 p.m. Oct. 1 at St. Peter Cathedral in Erie. Born Nov. 21, 1950, Lawrence Thomas Persico attended St. Cajetan Elementary School in Monessen and St. Joseph Hall, the diocesan high school seminary in Greensburg, graduating in 1969. He earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1973 from the now-closed St. Pius X Seminary in Erlanger, Ky., and graduated from St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa., in 1975 with a master of divinity degree.

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Vatican newspaper says Melinda Gates 'off the mark' on contraception

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Under the headline "birth control and disinformation," the Vatican newspaper took to task Melinda Gates, wife of the Microsoft founder, who announced in early July that the couple's foundation would give $560 million during the next eight years to increase women's access to artificial contraception. Written by Giulia Galeotti, a frequent contributor on abortion and other life issues, the article on the front page of the July 29 edition of L'Osservatore Romano said Gates is free to make charitable donations to whomever she wants, but not to spread incorrect information. In an interview July 10 with The Guardian, a British newspaper, Gates identified herself as a practicing Catholic who "struggled" with the idea of publicly opposing church teaching to promote a project aimed at giving 120 million women in developing countries access to contraceptives by 2020. Gates said she felt compelled to act to "keep women alive. I believe in not letting women die, I believe in not letting babies die." In the Vatican newspaper piece, Galeotti wrote, "The American philanthropist is off the mark," the victim of "bad information and persistent stereotypes on this theme. To still believe that by opposing the use of condoms, the Catholic Church leaves women and children to die because of misogynist intransigence is a baseless and shoddy reading" of reality. Gates told The Guardian that the Catholic Church allows natural family planning, but "for our foundation, well, we promote modern tools because these have the most impact." At the same time the church can and should continue to teach women how to space births naturally, she said. "Let a woman choose what it is she would like to use."

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Olympian credits CYO, Catholic high school with success on the hardwood

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- St. Gabriel Parish in the New York borough of Queens boasts three famous CYO basketball alumni. Speedy Claxton played eight years in the NBA, while Derrick Phelps starred at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, before playing in the pro ranks. The third, Tina Charles, made the U.S. women's basketball team competing in the Summer Olympics in London. The Jamaica native was selected to her first Olympic Games this summer after compiling an impressive basketball pedigree the past few years. All of her hard work paid off as she's one of the key components of the U.S. team trying to capture its fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal. "I was elated; it was a blessing," said Charles, 23. "Overall, it was just a great joy." In the U.S. team's opener against Croatia July 28, she scored 14 points, helping the team to an 81-56 win. The U.S. crushed the Angola team 90-38 in an evening game July 30 and was scheduled to play Turkey in a late game Aug. 1. Charles fondly recalls her memories playing sports with the Catholic Youth Organization at St. Gabriel in East Elmhurst. From second to eighth grade, the active child was always playing one sport or another at any hour of the day. "That's where it all started," she told The Tablet, newspaper of the Brooklyn Diocese. "I used to love just playing all sports with the guys, whether it was touch football, kickball or basketball. I was always after school just playing with a bunch of my classmates."


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