Archive of February 17, 2004

John Paul II: Universities must speak out loud of Europe’s Christian roots

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II said today that Universities “can speak out loud” of the Christian roots of Europe that “the ideology of the secularism” wants to silence.

“Today, we speak of the Christian roots of Europe. If one sign of these are the cathedrals, the works of art, music and literature, they in a certain sense speak in silence”, the Pope told 20 representatives of the University of Opole, Poland, who are in Rome to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its founding.

“Universities, however, can speak out loud. Yes, this voice might not be received by those who have been deafened by the ideology of the secularism of our continent but this does not release men of science from the duty of giving witness to that science and knowledge which grew in the fertile terrain of Christianity,” he stressed.

The University of Opole conferred on the Pope an “honoris causa” doctorate. 

The Holy Father recalled that ten years ago he approved the institution of the Theology Faculty within the structure of the state university, knowing that ”the birth of this athenaeum was very important for Opole.”

John Paul II thanked God, “for the fact that the University cooperates with the Church in the work of integration of society in Opole”.

“If we speak of integration of society, we do not mean this in the sense of the canceling of differences, of the unification of the way of thinking, of forgetting history – often marked by events that created divisions – but rather as a continuing search for those values that are common among men, that have different roots, a different story and, as a result, their own vision of the world and references to the societies they are living in,” he added.

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Draft survey reveals 4,450 U.S. priests accused of sex abuse between 1950 and 2002

, Feb 17, 2004 (CNA) - A draft survey on sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy found that more than 11,000 allegations were made against 4,450 priests, or about 4 percent of the clergy, who served in the United States between 1950 and 2002, reported CNN yesterday.

This unprecedented survey, to be released Feb. 27, was conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in order to better understand the scope of abuse in the Church.

Since no other profession or organization has ever conducted such a comprehensive study on the scope and nature of sexual abuse of minors, the Catholic League emphasized in a recent report the need to place these survey results in proper perspective.

Based on its own research, the league document pointed out that most abuse is committed by family members. It also included some data about the incidence of abuse in Christian denominations and professions, such as teaching and coaching. For more on this study, go to:

In an analysis of the draft survey released yesterday, CNN found that more than half of the accused priests had one allegation against them. About 25 percent, or 1,112 priests, had two or three allegations, and almost 13 percent, or 578 priests, had four to nine allegations. About 3 percent, or 133 priests, had 10 or more allegations.

CNN reported that 6,700 allegations were investigated and substantiated, and another 1,000 were unsubstantiated. The remaining 3,300 were not investigated because the accused priests had died before allegations were made.

According to the survey, most of the victims of abuse were teens – 78 percent were between the ages of 11 and 17. About 16 percent were between eight and 10 years old; and about six percent were 7 or younger.

CNN also reported that the survey cites several factors that contributed to the problem, namely failure to grasp its gravity, overemphasis on the avoidance of scandal, use of unqualified treatment centers, misguided willingness to forgive and insufficient accountability.

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Reports on sexual abuse will be ‘very sobering’: Bishop Gregory

Washington D.C., Feb 17, 2004 (CNA) - The release of two reports on sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy Feb. 27, “will be a very sobering and important milestone,” said the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a press release issued yesterday, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville said he could not comment on the reports since he hasn’t seen them yet. But he wanted to underline that the bishops requested these studies so they could “understand as fully as possible what caused this terrible occurrence in the life of our community to make sure that it never happens again.”

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice conducted the first study on the nature and scope of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The second report is from the National Review Board and will focus the issues for additional study.

"My heart goes out to all who have suffered,” said the bishop in his statement. “And I assure them especially that the bishops are committed to fully implementing the Dallas Charter and will continue to work with the Office of Child and Youth Protection and the National Review Board to reach out to victims and prevent such abuse from occurring in the future.”

He added that the USCCB is prepared to respond to the reports when they are released Feb. 27.

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Manhattan priest urges parishioners to see ‘The Passion’

, Feb 17, 2004 (CNA) - Mel Gibson’s movie “will prove to be a life-changing experience for many people,” said well known Manhattan pastor Fr. Gerald E. Murray. 

“I thank God that Mel Gibson has produced this movie which is truly a visual meditation on the price of our salvation paid by our loving God made man,” wrote the priest in a letter to his parishioners at St. Vincent de Paul in New York.

The diocesan priest and canon lawyer watched the film, “The Passion of the Christ,” at a private screening he was invited to attend last week.

“It is the most powerful movie I have ever seen. It is truly a religious experience to watch the portrayal of the suffering and death of Our Divine Savior,” he said. “Gibson has done a masterful job in this movie. I highly recommend it.

Fr. Murray disagrees that the film is anti-Semitic. “The movie shows the historical events of Christ's Passion, which involved the opposition of some, but by no means all, Jews to Jesus,” wrote Fr. Murray.

“Jesus died because of the sins of all mankind; Jesus died because of my sins. That is the message conveyed in the Gospel and in this movie,” wrote the priest.

In his letter, Fr. Murray also warned that the film is very graphic and that it may be too disturbing for youngsters. He recommends that parents only take their teenagers to see it.

The movie will be in theaters on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25.

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Pope will preside over Ash Wednesday celebration

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy See announced today that Pope John Paul II will preside over the Ash Wednesday liturgy at the Vatican Basilica.

The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff said the Holy Father will begin Lent on February 25, with the celebration of the Word, during which he will bless and distribute ashes.

The celebration will include the rite of introduction, the liturgy of the Word and a homily by the Holy Father, the blessing and imposition of ashes, the prayers of the faithful, the Lord’s Prayer, and the concluding rite.

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Cardinal López Trujillo says family needs to be strengthened against false “rights”

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 17, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal López Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, is warning that the family needs to be strengthened against the aggression of false “rights” which attack the human person.

Speaking from Puebla, Mexico, where the Latin America Bishops Conference is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Puebla document drafted in that city, the Colombian Cardinal warned that “different parliaments, especially in Europe, are inventing new human rights” such as gay marriage and the right to abortion.

Addressing Cardinals and Bishops from 22 Latin American countries, Cardinal López said the Catholic Church should work for renewed respect for the human person, who is under attack by misguided legislation.

“If the family is broken and the mother or father are absent from their children, a world is being created in which love and fidelity do not matter,” said Cardinal López.

He also recalled that society has changed significantly since the III General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate took place 25 years ago.  He pointed out, though, that “despite the passing of years, the values of the human person should not be changed, but rather persevered and conserved.”

The Cardinal concluded with an urgent call to evangelize the culture, “to bring about a new society that is truly human and rooted in Gospel values.”

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Vatican dicastery explains why human cloning is immoral

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Elio Sgrecia, Vice President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, established 10 years ago by Pope John Paul II, explained why human cloning is immoral and unacceptable in an interview with the Reuters News Service.

Responding to reports that South Korean scientists have successfully cloned a human embryo, Bishop Sgrecia said, “One cannot kill a human life with the hope of finding medicines to save other lives.”  He said such an act would “repeat what the Nazis did in the concentration camps.”

“Scientists are saying, ‘first I will clone you, then I will kill you.’  This is not a victory for humanity, but a double crime,” the Bishop said.

Scientists believe that stem cells, which are able to transform themselves into any other type of cells, can lead to cures for illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and spinal cord injuries.

These cells are found throughout the human body, but some scientists say that adult stem cells are difficult to identify and manipulate.

Bishop Sgrecia told Reuters that using stem cells from the umbilical cord or using adult stem cells provides an ethical alternative that does not involve the destruction of human life.

“There is no proof that stem cells from embryos are better for potential cures than stem cells from adults,” he underscored.

In conclusion, the Bishop warned that “some scientists are filling people with false hope, while at the same time they commit crimes, because to create an embryo in order to destroy it is an inhumane technological game.”

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“Punishing the customer” has lead to decrease in prostitution in Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden, Feb 17, 2004 (CNA) - Sweden’s Minister of Equality, Mona Sahlin, says “punishing the customer” has lead to a decrease in prostitution in that country, adding that “we cannot allow men to buy women.”

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País, Sahlin said that “according to a study on prostitution in Europe, the number of people seeking prostitutes in Sweden is 13% lower than in the rest of the continent.”

The study is based on data gathered since 1999, when Sweden passed a law prohibiting “the purchase of sexual services” under threat of fines or 6 months imprisonment for customers.

Sahlin clarified that her department “does not see prostitution as a job,” adding that despite initial criticism from certain sectors, the new law “has the support of 8 out of every 10 Swedes.”

On the other hand, Sahlin recalled that programs to help women get out of prostitution do exist and that “many organizations are helping a lot of people to be reintegrated, and in many cases, to overcome drug addiction.”

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