Archive of May 12, 2004

Papers reveal sharp rebut from Archbishop Chaput to National Review Board

Denver, Colo., May 12, 2004 (CNA) - The two main Colorado newspapers, The Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News, revealed this Tuesday the sharp rebuke Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote to the head of the National Review Board, who has accused bishops of dodging reforms adopted after the clergy sex scandal.

The Archbishop’s letter, which goes back to April 2, was made public by both newspapers after the independent weekly “National Catholic Reporter” revealed on Tuesday a heated, private exchange of letters between several Catholic bishops and Anne Burke, an Illinois Court of Appeals Justice and interim head of the National Review Board.

The NRB is a lay body set up by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2002 to oversee sex abuse reforms.

The National Catholic Reporter quotes Burke’s letter to USCCB’s President Wilton Gregory in which she claims, “We find it more than disingenuous to have permitted our members to make their presentations to the Administrative Committee and never once bring up or mention the letters from some bishops asking to defer these matters until November.”

Burke wants the US bishops to approve mandatory annual audits of dioceses reviewed by the NRB, and that such determination should be taken this June, during the Bishops’ retreat that will take place in Denver.

“We believe that the work we have accomplished these past 22 months is perceived by the bishops as having successfully deflected extensive national criticism. In effect, they have ‘dodged the bullet,’ and they are anxious to put these matters behind them.”

“In effect, (the bishops) dodged the bullet, and they are anxious to put these matters behind them,” says Burke’s letter quoted by the National Catholic Reporter.

The Reporter, which has not revealed how it obtained the private exchange, briefly quotes a strongly-worded letter Archbishop Chaput and his Auxiliary, Bishop Jose Gomez, wrote to Burke in response.

Archbishop Chaput’s letter, nevertheless, has been more extensively quoted by the Colorado newspapers.

According to the Rocky Mountains News, “Chaput sharply questions Burke's complaint that a study about sex abuse causes isn't being done fast enough. He said the study is on course for discussion at the bishops' November meeting.”

In fact, the Archbishop’s letter says that “we welcome an appropriate discussion of the matters you raise in your letter at our June meeting. However, please note that the June 2004 bishops’ meeting is a quadrennial retreat. Its agenda already focuses on critical issues facing the Church. This in no way diminishes the continuing importance of the NRB, the Dallas Charter or issues relating to sexual misconduct scandal. But neither can we as bishops neglect other vital matters, including calls for a plenary council.”

In the letter, both Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Gomez explain that “our problems with your letter lie elsewhere:” “The matter of ‘fraternal correction’ among bishops has canonical implications that go well beyond the NRB’s competence. We understand and support your concern about right behavior among the bishops. Given your own legal background, however, we’re surprised that you would seek to hurry a matter that directly involves Church law.”

The Bishops also point out that the Dallas Charter “nowhere requires an annual national audit and the expense, staff and structure that it would involve.”

“We do not necessarily oppose such an audit. We do think it would makes more sense on a triennial or quadrennial basis. In any case, it is not the NRB’s duty to interpret the Charter. The NRB is an important advisory body at the service of the bishops. It does not and cannot have supervisory authority.”

The letter concludes: “Finally Justice Burke, we were embarrassed by the tone of your letter. It assumes the worst motives on the part of the bishops, despite the progress that has already been made. Your language is designed to offend and contains implicit threats that are, to put it mildly, inappropriate for anyone of your professional stature.”

“Whatever its goals, your letter diminishes the credibility of the NRB and invites resistance. We can’t imagine that this is what you intended,” the letter says.

The National Catholic Reporter gives no account of any response from Burke to Archbishop Chaput’s letter.

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Never despair when all seems lost, Pope teaches

Vatican City, May 12, 2004 (CNA) - Give thanks to God "who has freed us from the fear of death,” declared the Holy Father in this morning’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the subject of which was Psalm 29.

“The night of death has passed and the dawn of a new day breaks. Christian tradition has therefore read this psalm as a paschal hymn. The psalmist repeatedly addresses the Lord in order to announce that he will praise Him as well as to recall the cry to Him in the time of trial and his liberating intervention, and to invoke once again His mercy."

"Emotions," commented the Pope, "vacillate between terrible memories of the trial and the joy of liberation. The vision of life which continues has overshadowed death."

The psalm "teaches us that we must never be ensnared into the dark confusion of despair when everything seems to be lost,” said the Pope. And on the other hand “we also cannot fall into the trap of believing that we can save ourselves on our own, with our own resources. The psalmist is tempted by pride and self-sufficiency 'I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved'. The Fathers of the Church taught us," he added, "that this is a temptation that comes in times of well-being and they saw a divine call to humility in times of tribulation."

The "aspiration to victory has always continued to be present despite everything, and has become, in the end, a hope for resurrection.  Satisfaction for this powerful aspiration has been fully ensured with Christ's Resurrection which we can never thank God enough for," concluded the Holy Father.

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Italian Catholics debate over Protestant churches

Rome, Italy, May 12, 2004 (CNA) - The renowned Vatican watcher Sandro Magister analyzes the growing debate among Catholic Italians regarding which Protestant denomonitations should be accepted in his weekly article published by L’Espresso Online.

According to Magister, the debate has been fueled by a study commissioned by the Waldensian Church—one of the oldest Protestant denominations in Italy—which reveals discrepancies between Catholics regarding how they view different Protestant denominations.

A study commissioned by the Waldensian Church and made public on May 6 certifies that Italians appreciate Protestantism for its “social commitment,” “solidarity,” and “moral rigor,” apart from a “better knowledge of the sacred texts” and “behavior more consistent with their faith.”

The study reveals that Italians are very ignorant of the Evangelical world—most of them think, for example, that President Bush is Catholic—and they “appreciate Protestantism for its ‘social commitment,’ ‘solidarity,’ and ‘moral rigor,’ apart from a ‘better knowledge of the sacred texts’ and ‘behavior more consistent with their faith’.”

Magister writes that among Catholic intellectuals, there is a greater willingness to dialogue with “traditional” Protestant denominations (Lutherans, Anglicans, Waldensians), but there is hostility towards those Evangelicals considered to be “fundamentalist.”

Nevertheless, says Magister, this double standard among Catholic intellectuals has been energetically criticized by Waldensian Pastor Giorgio Bouchard, who says that Pentecostal movements defined as “fundamentalist” “represent a new and legitimate interpretation of Christian piety” in an age “infested by the worst kind of moral relativism and by a suffocating materialism.”

According to Magister, Bouchard calls on intellectuals, whether they are Catholic or not, to renounce the old prejudice that every Evangelical movement that comes from the US is a plot by the CIA.

Magister’s complete essay can be found here:

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WHO adopts Church strategy to contain Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic

Washington D.C., May 12, 2004 (CNA) - The Church’s message of sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage – as a means to contain the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa – is now beginning to receive support from a number of organizations and governments, including United Nations bodies and U.S. Congress.

The Catholic Church has been highly criticized for promoting chastity education as a means of containing the spread of the disease and not encouraging the use of condoms. But Steven Mosher, in a recent PRI Weekly Briefing, reports that scientific studies, from countries like Uganda, reveal evidence that shows how abstinence and fidelity have dramatically reduced HIV rates.

According to Mosher, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now using terms such as “partner reduction” and “long-term monogamous relationships” to promote concepts similar to those taught by the Catholic Church, namely abstinence and fidelity.

The African Church, no longer led by Western missionaries but by Africans, communicates its message in homilies during mass and through its faith education programs for young people and engaged couples. It also teaches against casual sex, sexual violence and polygamy.

Mosher points out that “countries with the highest condom availability rate also have the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate.” This evidence has led organizations and governments to note the value of promoting abstinence and fidelity.

The U.S. Congress passed legislation that authorized the “President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.” The plan calls for culturally appropriate HIV/AIDS prevention efforts aimed at “delaying sexual debut, abstinence, fidelity and monogamy, reduction of casual sexual partnering, reducing sexual violence and coercion, including child marriage, widow inheritance, and polygamy, and, where appropriate, use of condoms.”

Given this legislation, Mosher supports a “new alliance between the Catholic Church and the Bush Administration” that can “end the scourge of AIDS in Africa.”

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National honor roll will recognize top Catholic high schools

Washington D.C., May 12, 2004 (CNA) - A new initiative will recognize excellence among Catholic high schools in the United States. The Catholic High School Honor Roll will assess Catholic high schools across the country and compile a list of the top 50 schools based on academic excellence, Catholic identity, and civic education.

The top-50 list will be available in print and online. Organizers hope it will become a resource for parents, students, educators and donors.

Given that the Honor Roll is a new initiative, organizers ask Catholic high school alumnus and parents of children attending Catholic high school to notify the school's principal and urge him or her to participate in the survey at

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BBC takes reality TV to the monastery

London, England, May 12, 2004 (CNA) - The BBC’s latest attempt to take reality TV to a higher level has sceptics wondering if the program’s objectives will actually be reached.

The new series will feature four young professionals, who have volunteered to live in a monastery for two months.

The BBC’s religion and ethics department, which commissioned the series, insists it will be a serious documentary looking at the role that religion, God and spirituality play in one’s daily life, but the series is said to have strong elements of other well-known reality TV shows.

A spokesman said the program is an attempt to understand monastic life and make religion more accessible.

The production company, called Tiger Aspect, is currently recruiting volunteers. Volunteers need not be Christian but they should come from a "busy, modern, fast-moving, metropolitan environment."

The series is scheduled for broadcast next year.

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Spanish families reject distribution of abortion pills to adolescents

Madrid, Spain, May 12, 2004 (CNA) - The Spanish Family Forum is rejecting an announcement by the mayor of Madrid, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, that the morning after pill will be distributed free of charge to pregnant adolescents “with problems” starting next September.

The Forum said that “this measure represents a serious intrusion into the educational roll of parents and the family as the ideal place to discuss issues that affect the present and future lives of young people.”

Likewise, the group said there “exist much more urgent and fundamental issues that the families of Madrid face and that should be financed, such as the purchase of eyeglasses or dental care for their children.”

“On the other hand, the measure does not really address the undesirable situation [of adolescent pregnancy], but rather proposes a solution which represents a direct attack on a newly conceived life, given the abortifacient effect of the pill,” said the Forum.

The Forum emphasized that “public officials have the obligation to create channels of communication with parents and families—through the organizations which represent them—in regards to everything related to issues that can affect the behavior, education, and formation of our young people, in the same way that issues related to workers are negotiated between management and unions.”

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Irish Archbishop calls on IRA to renounce violence

Rome, Italy, May 12, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh, is calling on the Irish Republican Army to disarm, saying “violence can never be justified.”

In statements to the BBC, Archbishop Brady said there was no need for violence in a democratic society.

"We must dispel any ambivalence in our own community about the presence or actions of non-democratic and totally unaccountable armed groups,” said the Archbishop. “I ask people to forsake once and for all the armed struggle,” he added.

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