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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Aug-3-2012

By Catholic News Service


Settlement reached in civil trial of former Springfield bishops

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (CNS) -- A Massachusetts man who was abused in the 1980s by Alfred F. Graves, a former priest of the Springfield Diocese, agreed to a $500,000 settlement with retired Springfield Bishops Joseph F. Maguire and Thomas L. Dupre July 27. The agreement, worked out late July 26, ended a dramatic civil trial that featured emotional testimony by the abuse victim, Andrew Nicastro, now 41, his family members and two priests who testified to the harm caused by Graves from 1982 to 1985. Nicastro, of Williamstown, alleged the bishops had been negligent during their respective tenures as head of the diocese by returning the former priest to ministry with insufficient supervision knowing he had a history of abusing boys. He filed suit in 2009. Bishop Maguire, now 92, was named coadjutor for Springfield in 1976, was installed in 1977 and retired in 1991. His successor, Bishop John A. Marshall, died in 1994. Bishop Dupre, now 78, was appointed to succeed him and was installed in 1995. Citing health reasons, he resigned in 2004. "The testimony was compelling," John Stobierski, Nicastro's principal attorney, said after the trial. Speaking at a media briefing on the steps of the Hampden County Hall of Justice, Stobierski said that while he was confident that his client was winning his case in the trial, other factors persuaded him to settle out of court. "We were warned that, even if we won, we would have faced two more barriers. First, they (the bishops) would have appealed. Second, even if we won on appeal, we would have had to sue their insurance companies to actually receive any money. That process might have taken another three to five years," Stobierski said.

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Jesuits gather in Boston for first worldwide education conference

BOSTON (CNS) -- For the first time since St. Ignatius of Loyola formed the order in 1540, Jesuit educators came together from all over the world for the first International Colloquium on Jesuit Secondary Education, with the theme "The World is Our House." According to organizers from the host institution, Boston College High School, 400 educators associated with Jesuit schools descended on the campus of Boston College from 61 countries on six continents. The five-day colloquium offered 52 workshops addressing concerns and topics relevant to Jesuit education, discussion opportunities including panel events and breakout sessions, and keynote talks from eight authorities in Jesuit education. After a video welcome from Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Society of Jesus, Jesuit Father Jose Alberto Mesa, the order's secretary for secondary and pre-secondary education, opened the conference with a talk titled "An Eye to the Future: Our Continued Collaboration. This colloquium, the Society of Jesus hopes, is the beginning of a new way of proceeding, a new way of being schools, in the Jesuit tradition," he later told The Pilot, Boston's archdiocesan newspaper. "That probably means that we need to take networking and global networking very seriously, and that we need to incorporate that global dimension into our education." In another keynote address on "Jesuit Identity in the 21st Century," Jesuit Father Daniel Patrick Huang, general counsel and regional assistant for Asia Pacific, asked participants to consider a series of questions raised by Jesuit delegates during a recent conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Jesuit educators take opportunity to compare notes across world borders

BOSTON (CNS) -- Participants in the first International Colloquium on Jesuit Secondary Education said they enjoyed not only the opportunity to discuss Jesuit identity of schools in a global context, but also the opportunity to network and learn informally from their peers throughout the world. In an informal conversation between sessions, two educators, one Irish and one Italian, discussed collaborating directly to expand curriculums by possibly exchanging teachers or students between the two countries. "We were trying to understand how we could expose our children to more globalized opportunities. Ireland has got many similarities with us in terms of being a Catholic country," said Gianluca Vignola, who coordinates Jesuit education with the Italian province for the network of Italian schools. "We could offer to Irish teachers opportunity for arts, for Latin, or for other disciplines that they would like to learn from Italy, while we would profit from the English language, which for us is very important," he said. With delegates from 304 schools throughout the world, Jesuit educators found opportunities to interact with counterparts from other countries. Delegates said they picked up useful knowledge to take back to their missions in the countries where they live and the schools where they work. "The key thing that has come through again and again ... is the notion of networking, of twinning, of learning from what is going on from other schools, particularly those of us that are from the African schools. We're learning we can share what's going on with each other and in that way strengthen things," said Jesuit Father Peter Henriot, who is working to build and organize a school in Kasungu, Malawi.

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State Catholic conference directors share strategies at annual meeting

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- Fresh off the national fortnight of freedom campaign, the leadership of some 37 state Catholic conferences that track public policy for their respective regions met in Fort Lauderdale recently to share their experiences. "Every time we get together it is very meaningful, and especially now with so many issues affecting life right now," said Robert O'Hara Jr. executive director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and current president of the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors. "It gives us comfort and confidence to know we are not alone when you see your colleagues who seem to be doing a terrific job," O'Hara said, before a Mass with Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski for the conference attendees. The association of executive directors of state Catholic conferences and affiliate diocesan agencies met for a three-day summit ending Aug. 1. Started in 1968, the group helps to facilitate and encourage the exchange of information among its members pertaining to the activities, programs, and organization of the conferences. State Catholic conferences represent dioceses within a state to provide coordination of the public policy concerns for the church. Referencing Pope Benedict XVI's historic visit to Cuba earlier this year, Archbishop Wenski said the church is active in upholding the basic human right to religious freedoms wherever it finds itself, but that the church is not seeking any privileges for itself or to be partisan in its work regionally or nationally. "The church does not seek to impose but to propose," the archbishop said. "The church doesn't impose her views but seeks the freedom to propose them in the public square and, in the give and take of the democratic process, to convince others of their reasonableness; and the church demands the freedom to witness to them coherently in her parishes, schools and charitable institutions, so as to contribute to human flourishing in society."

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Aug. 1 comes and goes with little effect on most Americans' health plans

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Although Aug. 1 was a key date in implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it simply marked the first possible date when health plans could be required to cover eight new preventive services for women -- including all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives. But most Americans saw no change in their health insurance that day, because their plans renew on another date or are covered by a one-year "temporary enforcement safe harbor" or a "grandfathering" provision that delays changes. The requirement to provide contraceptives free of charge has prompted an outcry by Catholic leaders and others who object to the mandate on moral grounds and see it as a violation of their religious freedom. Catholic leaders do not oppose the other mandated preventive services for women, which include well-woman visits, breast-feeding support and counseling, and domestic violence screening and counseling. Those services "pose little or no medical risk themselves, and they help prevent or ameliorate identifiable conditions that would pose known risks to life and health in the future," Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications at the bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, pointed out in 2011 to an Institute of Medicine panel charged with making recommendations to HHS. But the use of prescription contraceptives "actually increases a woman's risk of developing some of the very conditions that the 'preventive services' ... are designed to prevent, such as stroke, heart attacks and blood clots," she added. The contraceptive mandate does not apply, however, to plans that are "grandfathered" -- those that have remained substantially unchanged since March 23, 2010, in terms of benefits, co-pays, deductibles and employer contributions -- or those covered by what the U.S. bishops and others fee have said is a narrowly drawn religious exemption.

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Cardinal urges Congress to act on HHS mandate before year's end

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Since the courts will not act quickly enough to protect the religious liberty concerns prompted by the Obama administration's contraceptive mandate, Congress must "address this urgent and fundamental issue before it completes its business this year," Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo told members of the House and Senate. "Timely and uniform protection of these rights cannot be expected from the current lengthy judicial process," said the cardinal in an Aug. 3 letter to members of Congress. He is archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Cardinal DiNardo described the contraceptive mandate as an "unprecedented and misguided federal policy. The Catholic bishops of the United States continue to advocate for life-affirming health care for all, especially for poor and vulnerable people," he wrote. "We do not see this policy as a step in that direction." Cardinal DiNardo said that despite "widespread opposition to this coercive policy by religious organizations, lawmakers and the general public, Congress has still taken no action to counter it. The time for such action is, to say the least, overdue," he added. "The fundamental importance of the religious freedom issue at stake demands a timely congressional response." The cardinal said the requirement to provide contraceptives to their employees free of charge will likely affect for-profit business owners first. He noted that four of the lawsuits against the mandate have been filed by Catholic business owners.

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LCWR conference in St. Louis to review Vatican's doctrinal assessment

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When more than 900 women religious attend the annual gathering of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious Aug. 7-10 in St. Louis, it will be "business as usual and not business as usual," according to the group's president. Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell emphasized that the meeting will have its routine education, business matters and the "opportunity to share ideas with one another," but it also will include executive sessions devoted to discussing the Vatican's doctrinal assessment of LCWR and its calls for the organization's reform. "We don't want the assessment to take over our agenda," Sister Farrell told reporters Aug. 2 in a telephone press briefing. But she also noted that the sisters intend to review the document in depth and discern their response to it. The gathering will be the first time the organization has assembled since the doctrinal assessment was issued April 18 by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. LCWR's members are the 1,500 leaders of U.S. women's communities representing about 80 percent of the country's 57,000 women's religious congregation. The assessment said reform was needed to ensure LCWR's fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas that include abortion, euthanasia, women's ordination and homosexuality. The organization's canonical status is granted by the Vatican. When the assessment was first announced, LCWR's leaders said they were "stunned" and "taken by surprise." But a Vatican spokesman disputed the suggestion the sisters had been taken entirely by surprise by the assessment, and LCWR revised its initial statement to say, "We were taken by surprise by the gravity of the mandate."

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Cardinal encourages young Christians, Muslims in work for freedom

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Yearning and working for freedom and peace, young Christians and Muslims must be patient and persistent, recognizing that violence or other apparent "short cuts" that harm others will never lead to justice and lasting peace, said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. "In the tormented world of ours, educating the young for peace becomes increasingly urgent," said the cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The Vatican Aug. 3 released the cardinal's annual greeting to Muslims for Eid al-Fitr, the feast marking the end of the monthlong Ramadan fast. The feast begins on or around Aug. 19 this year. As the Arab Spring movement, supported by young Muslims and Christians, continues across North Africa and parts of the Middle East, Cardinal Tauran focused his message on the theme "Educating young Christians and Muslims for justice and peace." Parents, teachers and religious leaders have a share in the "beautiful and difficult task" of helping young people to discover and develop the talents God has given them, to learn and to build relationships that reflect justice, peace and the fact that all people are created by God, he said. "For believers, genuine justice, lived in friendship with God, deepens all other relationships: with oneself, with others and with the whole of creation," Cardinal Tauran said.

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Priests deride Chinese official's remarks on state of religious freedom

SHANGHAI (CNS) -- At least two priests criticized comments from China's Foreign Ministry that dismissed a U.S. government report criticizing the state of religious freedom in the country. The U.S. State Department July 30 identified eight countries "of particular concern," including China in its 2011 International Religious Freedom Report. It said there was a marked deterioration during 2011 in the Chinese government's respect for and protection of religious freedom. In response, the state-run Xinhua News Agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei as saying Aug. 2, "The Chinese people are best qualified to judge China's religious situation." The Asian church news agency UCA News reported that Hong urged the U.S. to discard prejudice, respect facts and view China's policy on religion and religious freedom in an objective and impartial way. The spokesman also called on the U.S. to stop using religious issues to interfere in China's internal affairs and not to act in ways that damage bilateral relations, mutual trust and cooperation. After hearing the ministry's reply, one Shanghai priest who asked to remain anonymous said, "I would not have offered an opinion in the past. But after the recent incident in my diocese, I think what other people (the U.S.) have said is not without reason."

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Venezuelans in US cry foul over hurdles to voting in Oct. 7 elections

MIAMI (CNS) -- Against a backdrop of fear of reprisals back home, reports of human rights abuses and widespread media censorship, Venezuelan Americans in South Florida are crying foul over alleged electoral obstructions ahead of upcoming presidential elections in their homeland. Charges of betrayal and violations of international law have fueled distrust and anger among Venezuelan Americans who say that the decision by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to close a consulate in Miami earlier this year threatens to disenfranchise them. The closure -- the result of a diplomatic tit-for-tat involving the State Department -- leaves an estimated 20,000 registered Venezuelan voters in South Florida and thousands more in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina with no option but to travel to the Venezuelan consulate in New Orleans to cast their ballots if they want a say in the Oct. 7 election. Observers argued the consulate's closure was meant to punish Florida's vocal critics of the Chavez regime and to improve his chances of adding a third term to the presidency he first assumed in 1999. "This is inexcusable, not opening a voting center here in Miami," said Beatriz Olavarria, who is handling logistics for what may be a large-scale effort to transport registered voters from South Florida to New Orleans, home to the nearest Venezuelan consulate some 1,000 miles away.

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AIDS remains an epidemic in US, especially in minority communities

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Jeanette Delgado is an AIDS activist in San Diego and she said it is getting harder and harder for people to believe that AIDS is still an issue in the United States, particularly within the Latino community in which she works as a nurse. As she left Washington July 27 after the conclusion of the XIX International AIDS Conference, which brought renewed attention of the epidemic in the U.S., she said she felt strengthened and more energized about her work back home. "Maybe now people will believe me when I say this is serious stuff, that we still have a life-threatening epidemic on our hands," she told Catholic News Service as she boarded a plane for the West Coast. Recent medical advances mean that HIV is no longer an automatic death sentence. Many who begin treatment soon after infection can live with the virus indefinitely. But that's only possible if people know their status and seek appropriate treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of the 1.2 million HIV-positive people in the U.S. do not know they are infected. "The general mentality of Americans is that AIDS is not a problem here. I hear a lot of people say, 'I thought that was all taken care of,'" Father Dennis Rausch, founder of the HIV ministry of the Miami Archdiocese, told CNS. "We're coming to the point we have to remind people that there's no cure because the numbers are on the rise. There's a mentality among young people especially that they can pop a pill and everything will be fine. Indeed with Truvada (a drug the U.S. government recently approved to prevent HIV infection), studies show that people can stay negative even though they're sexually active," Father Rausch said.

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Agencies look at new development to stem migration from Central America

CIUDAD IXTEPEC, Mexico (CNS) -- Undocumented Central Americans stream through this sweaty railway town in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca state, just one of the many pit stops for migrants as they traverse Mexico. In Ixtepec, shelter operator Father Alejandro Solalinde said he's welcoming a growing number of Central Americans, even though the road through Mexico is dangerous and he himself has been targeted with threats by those who prey on undocumented migrants. "We're noticing an increase in all (Mexican) shelters," said Father Solalinde, director of the Brothers of the Road shelter. He recently returned to his work after being forced to flee for several months because of the threats. Church officials and nongovernmental organizations long have battled for the better treatment of Central American migrants as they transit Mexico and pursue economic opportunities in the United States. But developing public policies and economic development programs in the migrants' countries of origin in an attempt to reduce the incentive to leave has been difficult -- and often an afterthought. "We believe in the right of people to migrate in order to sustain their families if they can't do it any other way," said Erica Dahl-Bredine, country representative for CRS in El Salvador. "The piece ... that has been neglected for quite some time is the flip side of the coin ... that people have the right not to have to migrate, to make a dignified living in their countries of origin," she said.

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Priest's homily on poverty, justice leads to deportation from Zambia

LUSAKA, Zambia (CNS) -- Zambian authorities deported a Rwandese Catholic priest after he was detained for two days and questioned for preaching about poverty and justice for the poor during a Mass. Edgar Lungu, minister of home affairs, confirmed that Father Viateur Banyangandora, pastor of the parish in Lundazi, Zambia, was sent to his homeland Aug. 1. He declined to say why the priest, 40, was deported. "Father Banyangandora's conduct was found to be a danger to peace and good order in Zambia," Lungu said. Zambian church officials had no immediate comment on the deportation. Father Banyangandora was picked up at his residence by police at about 5 p.m., July 30, and taken to Lusaka, the Zambian capital, for questioning, said Father Evan Sakala, the parish's parochial vicar. Father Sakala explained that police pointed to comments that Father Banyangandora made in which he castigated the government over its handling of an impasse between cotton growers and cotton ginners. Authorities, Father Sakala said, apparently considered the comments capable of inciting people to rise against the government. The Zambian government and the Cotton Association of Zambia have been unable to reach an agreement on the price of cotton being paid to growers. The stalemate has led the association to halt the sale of cotton to the Cotton Ginners Association of Zambia, which offered a price more than 50 percent lower than its 2011 offer. The impasse has led some farmers to burn cotton stockpiles in protest. "We were told that he was being taken to Lusaka for further questioning, but his mobile (phone) is switched off," Father Sakala said.

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Swimmer says having 'world's best' friends, family keeps her grounded

DENVER (CNS) -- For swimmer Missy Franklin, a rising senior at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, "there is nothing like wearing a cap with my country's flag on it. I always remember, though, that I'm not just representing the U.S. but also my family, friends, team, school and Colorado!" She made those comments early this year in a Q-and-A interview with the Denver Catholic Register, newspaper of the Denver Archdiocese. That was before she earned a spot on the U.S. women's Olympic swimming team, before she was a gold medalist. Ranked first in the world in the 200 freestyle and 200 backstroke, first in the country in the 100 freestyle, and second in the 100 backstroke, she was at that point still some months away from the Olympic swim trials in Omaha, Neb. She had just set a record-breaking performance at the girls' 5A Colorado championship swim meet in Fort Collins. It would be an understatement to say a lot has happened to the 6-foot-1 swimmer since then. Franklin, 17, the youngest member of the women's swimming team, had won two gold medals and a bronze medal by Aug. 2. She took another gold Aug. 3 in the 200 backstroke, setting a new world.

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Swimmer who says Hail Mary before races wins gold at London Olympics

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Katie Ledecky, a U.S. swimmer from Maryland who says she always prays the Hail Mary before races, won the Olympic gold medal in women's 800 freestyle Aug. 3. Ledecky, 15, who will be a sophomore at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Md., this fall, said her strong Catholic faith keeps her focused on God and what matters most in life. She and her family are longtime parishioners of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda. "I also love going to Mass every week. It's a great chance to reflect and connect with God. (My faith) has been a big part of my life since I was born," she told the Catholic Standard, newspaper the Washington Archdiocese, in an interview before heading to London for the Summer Olympics. Ledecky said she has always loved St. Anne, the mother of Mary, and chose her name for confirmation. Because her birthday is March 17, Ledecky also has a special devotion to St. Patrick. She credited the example of men and women religious she has known for inspiration. She called the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who taught her at Little Flower School in Bethesda, "great role models." Her godfather, Jesuit Father Jim Shea, provincial of the Maryland Province of the Jesuits, is a close family friend and another Ledecky supporter. "I couldn't have done any of this without everyone's support," Ledecky said. "My family, teammates, coaches, everyone at Little Flower, Stone Ridge and my neighborhood, all cheering me on and watching. It means so much to me."


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