Archive of August 29, 2005

Pope, leader of St. Pius X Fraternity agree on “gradual process” towards unity

Vatican City, Aug 29, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI met today with Msgr. Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, Holy See Press Office director Joaquín Navarro-Valls told journalists.

Msgr. Fellay had requested the meeting, which was held at the Pope’s summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei," created after the 1988 excommunication to try to negotiate with the society, was also present. Msgr. Fellay is one of the four bishops ordained by Msgr. Lefebvre  without the consent of Rome.

 “The meeting was held in a climate of love for the Church and a desire to arrive at perfect communion,” said Navarro-Valls in the statement. Fellay, for example, welcomed Benedict's April 19 election, saying there was a "gleam of hope" that the new pope might find a way out of the "profound crisis" in which the Catholic Church currently finds itself.

There has been controversy surrounding the Society for more than a decade. Pope Benedict XVI, as Prefect of  the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had been  negotiating with the society to try to keep its members in the fold.

“Although aware of the difficulties, there was manifested the will to proceed by stages and in reasonable time,” Navarro-Valls said. The Saint Pius Society  requested from the Pope to rescind the excommunication order and also allow Catholics to celebrate Mass in Latin without having to ask permission first, as steps toward reconciliation.

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Judge rules diocese can be liquidated in sex-abuse case: questions arise about “big business”

Spokane, Wash., Aug 29, 2005 (CNA) - In a shocking decision last week, a federal bankruptcy judge ruled that all parish churches, schools and other property of the Diocese of Spokane could be liquidated to pay 58 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Bishop William Skylstad had argued in court that he did not control individual parishes and they were not available to cover settlement, reported the Associated Press. He said only about $10 million worth of real estate were under his control, and that the diocese has filed for bankruptcy protection last year.

But lawyers argued that the bishop holds title to and controls more than 82 parish churches, 16 schools, Catholic cemeteries and other property in eastern Washington state, making his financial assets total more than $80 million, reported the AP.

The decision ignores the fact that parishes and other institutions, associated to the diocese, are independent legal entities. It is expected to impact dioceses and cases across the country.

"It is not a violation of the First Amendment to apply federal bankruptcy law to identify and define property of the bankruptcy estate even though the Chapter 11 debtor is a religious organization," Judge Patricia Williams wrote.

Skylstad said he would appeal the decision "because we have a responsibility, not only to the victims, but to the generations of parishioners ... who have given so generously of themselves in order to build up the work of the Catholic Church in Eastern Washington".

Sex-abuse cases are ‘huge business’

This decision may be viewed as another phase in a very long and carefully planned campaign to attack the Church and use it as a focal point in a larger effort to turn the sex-abuse crisis into big business. The trend was documented in Forbes Magazine more than two years ago.

The article, dated June 9, 2003, says abuse cases against Catholic dioceses have been about more than justice. Forbes said they “have sparked a litigation gold rush,” and litigators have turned the sex-abuse crisis into a billion-dollar industry.

The cash flow related to sex-abuse cases is astounding. According to the publication, $1 billion in damages had already been paid out to victims and indications were that the total will approach $5 billion before the crisis is over.

Patrick Schiltz, associate dean at the University of St. Thomas Law school in Minneapolis, Minn., described the decade-long litigation campaign and the litigators’ strategy as "warfare."

"Phase One was for plaintiff lawyers to maximize bad publicity and destroy the credibility of the Church. Phase Two is to use that publicity to push for legislative changes. Phase Three will be to collect," he told Forbes.

"There is an absolute explosion of sexual abuse litigation, and there will continue to be. This is going to be a huge business," plaintiff lawyer Roderick MacLeish Jr. admitted frankly to Forbes. The 50-year-old lawyer had won more than $30 million for more than 100 plaintiffs over the last 10 years.

The majority of cases are legitimate, but Schiltz said the huge settlements may attract others who want a piece of the pie.

"Who's going to doubt them?” said Schiltz. “I worry about the person who was an altar boy 30 years ago, and his life has been a disappointment, and now he realizes he has a lottery ticket in his pocket."

In addition, Schiltz said, the situation can snowball and lead to similar litigation against day cares, babysitters, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, summer camps, study-abroad programs, etc.

In the meantime, litigators have been using other strategies to generate settlements. They continue to lobby states to lift the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases, allowing people to file complaints that date back decades.

As well, Forbes reported that Minnesota lawyer Jeffrey Anderson had plans to use the Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) and to argue that bishops conspired in a cover-up. He has also tried to sue the Vatican.

More than this, litigators are going after big insurers. “Put aside the pious talk about protecting kids, and the racket boils down to this: Plaintiff lawyers are going after old insurance policies written decades ago under entirely different circumstances,” Forbes said.

Lawyer Roderick MacLeish, who represented 240 plaintiffs against the Archdiocese of Boston, had shared his next career move with the magazine. He said when the clergy abuse crisis is over he would use his experience to consult businesses that want to protect themselves from sex abuse lawsuits. His hourly rate is $500.

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Youth seek help to be witnesses of Christ, says Pope

Vatican City, Aug 29, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI reflected on last week’s World Youth Day celebrations in Cologne once again during the Sunday Angelus, calling it “an extraordinary ecclesial experience.”

By their presence, the young people issued a message to their pastors: “Help us to be disciples and witnesses to Christ,” the Pope said.

Youth and all communities of faith and their pastors must be more conscious of the fundamental place of evangelization. “Where God does not hold first place, where he is not known or worshipped as the Supreme Goodness, there human dignity is in danger,” he said.

In speaking with German bishops, the Pope recalled that adoration is not a luxury but a priority.

Believers, youth, adults, the faithful and their pastors must be incessant in their search for Christ, the Pope said. Their search must be encouraged, supported and guided, he added.

Faith is not simply adhering to a set of dogma, but a lifelong journey toward God, he continued. “The Christian is someone who at the same time seeks and finds. This is what makes the Church young, open to the future, and rich in hope for all of humanity,” he said.

He commented on Psalm 104 and the reflections on this psalm by St. Augustine, whose feast day was yesterday.

“The more we enter into the splendor of divine love, the more beautiful it is to move forward in our search” for the will of God, he said.

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Catholic JAMA editor moves to center of fetal pain report storm

Washington D.C., Aug 29, 2005 (CNA) - The flurry of controversy surrounding a report published in last week’s Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which claims that unborn babies cannot feel pain before the third trimester, has shifted its focus onto Journal editor, Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, a Catholic, and Eucharistic minister who says she supports a woman’s right to choose abortion.

Claims of bias arose last week as reports came out that two of the reports authors had strong links to the abortion industry.

The report, which is actually an assessment of already-existing research, suggests that unborn babies younger than 29 weeks cannot feel pain and therefore do not require anesthesia during abortions. The study poses a direct challenge to certain proposed federal and state laws which would require abortion doctors to tell mothers that their babies can feel pain and offer anesthesia specifically for the fetus.

The bias claims point to the study’s lead author, Susan J. Lee, who is a medical student and former NARAL Pro-Choice America employee, and one of the physician authors, Eleanor Drey, who directs an abortion clinic in San Francisco.

Now that focus has moved onto JAMA editor in chief DeAngelis--a reportedly “staunch” Catholic who says she personally opposes abortion but openly supports the choice of other women to abort if they desire so.

DeAngelis, who is also a Eucharistic minister in her diocese and in her youth, wanted to be a Maryknoll missionary, defended the report against allegations of bias.

"There's nothing wrong with this article," DeAngelis said, as quoted by the Associated Press. "This is not original research. This is a review article," based on data in dozens of medical articles by other researchers.”

She admitted however, that had she known about Lee’s NARAL connections in advance, she would have printed a disclaimer with the article.

She added that, "If there weren't four other authors and this wasn't a peer-reviewed journal, I'd worry ... but I don't."

Some critics point to the fact however, that despite the additional authors, two of the four have strong abortion industry connections--a fact which should have sent off warning bells.

Fr. Frank Pavone, head of the group Priests for Life, noted that extensive studies which show just the opposite of this one, mean that the debate is “hardly settled scientifically.”

Douglas Johnson, Legislative Director for the National Right to Life pointed out that, “The authors' conclusion (which was predetermined by their political agenda) is disputed by experts with far more extensive credentials in pain research than any of the authors.  These independent authorities say that there is substantial evidence from multiple lines of research that unborn humans can perceive pain during the fifth and sixth months (i.e., by 20 weeks gestational age), and perhaps somewhat earlier.”

Fr. Pavone likewise added that the debate largely misses the bigger issue. He said that the mere possibility of pain should give us pause with regard to abortion. "There are many painless ways to kill both born and unborn,” he said. “That doesn't make it right."

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As Hurricane Katrina rocks gulf, Catholic Charities prepares for massive relief effort

New Orleans, La., Aug 29, 2005 (CNA) - As Hurricane Katrina makes landfall, and as New Orleans and the U.S. gulf coast brace for what some meteorologists have called a “worst case scenario”, Catholic Charities USA has already begun collecting donations for the massive relief efforts which are sure to follow.

Spokesperson Shelly Borysiewicz, reported that the group is “collecting financial donations to help communities recover from the damage brought on by Hurricane Katrina. Donations will be used to fund local Catholic Charities agencies’ emergency and long-term disaster recovery efforts in areas hit by the hurricane.”

Some reports suggest that damages could reach the 20 billion dollar mark.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans has evacuated their administrative offices on accordance with a mandatory order for all of metropolitan New Orleans--it will remain closed throughout the day.

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Former high-ranking justice official denounces “political trickery” to legalize abortion in Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia, Aug 29, 2005 (CNA) - In an article published in the Colombian daily El Tiempo, Rafael Nieto Loaiza, a former high-ranking official of the Justice Ministry in Colombia, denounced the political trickery of abortion supporters who are seeking to legalize the practice in the South American country.

In his article, Nieto wrote that “those who seek its legalization have been exposed,” and he called attention to statements made from New York by Colombian lawyer Monica Roa, the author of the request to legalize abortion that has been filed before the Constitutional Court, which reveal that there is an organized strategy to liberalize abortion on the basis of “exceptions” such as rape, fetal deformation or life of the mother.  According to Nieto, these statements “are chilling in their attempt to take advantage of the good will of Colombians.”  He pointed to Roa’s efforts to lead a publicity campaign to influence public opinion on the issue.

“Contrary to what abortion supporters imply in their public statements, the defense of life is not a matter of the Catholic hierarchy or of those who profess religious belief.  To try to discredit this defense by alleging that a group of bishops or a set of religious beliefs are behind it reveals an outdated and evil anticlericalism,” he noted.

Likewise, Nieto maintained that abortion supporters couldn’t rely “on international treaties signed and ratified by Colombia because not only do they not approve of abortion, in the American Convention on Human Rights, they explicitly protect the right to life ‘from the moment of conception’.”

Nieto explained that in ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), “President Uríbe found himself between two raging fires: on the one hand, there were the women’s organizations that rightly wished to strengthen the mechanisms that protect their rights, and on the other, there were those who feared that the ratification of the Protocol would lead to an erroneous interpretation that would legalize abortion.”

“The President wisely sought to address both concerns and decided that in the ratification of the Colombian Protocol, ‘it shall declare that nothing addressed herein is to be interpreted in the sense of obliging the Government of Colombia to decriminalize any of the acts that are classified as crimes by our legislation’.  The reference, of course, is to abortion, as the President himself said in a statement last Tuesday,” Nieto wrote.

That, Nieto maintained, “set off a firestorm. Those who sought legalization through the ratification (of the Protocol) and who said so often that the Protocol had nothing to do with abortion saw their trickery unmasked and neutralized, and now they are openly firing their whole arsenal against the Government with arguments, including anti-clerical ones, that cannot hold up under serious debate.”

Nieto defended President Uríbe’s right to “act according to his convictions, inasmuch as they are not incompatible with his constitutional and legal obligations.”

“In this case the President’s position is not the result of his faith, whatever that may be, but rather the response to a higher duty that should not be based on any creed: the protection of human life, in particular of those, like the unborn, who have no voice to defend themselves.  I cannot think of a nobler cause,” Nieto concluded.

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Venezuelan archbishop tells Chavez to “fix problems at home” first

Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 29, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro, Venezuela, called on President Hugo Chavez this week to worry first about running his own country and “fixing the problems at home” before trying to solve the problems of other nations, whether through the purchasing of external debt or the sale of oil at lower prices.

“Why does the government insist on sending money to other nations when it doesn’t fix its own problems at home?  Fix the problems at home, fix Venezuela, start running your own country,” the archbishop said during a local radio program.

He noted that while it is laudable that Venezuela support other nations in Latin America that are poorer, within Venezuela there are many needs that must be met, such as providing water and electricity to poor areas.  “Please, fix your own home first and then you can help your neighbor fix his,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Luckert criticized the Chavez government for not being able to address basic needs in the country, such as proper health care equipment for hospitals and clinics.

The archbishop also questioned the shipment of oil to the Castro regime in Cuba, as reports from those who have visited the country indicate the gasoline supply in the country is extremely low.

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Police in Spain arrest man suspected of faxing terrorist message

Madrid, Spain, Aug 29, 2005 (CNA) - Spanish police arrested a man Wednesday in Barcelona who is suspected of having faxed a message in the name of Al Qaeda to the Spanish daily ABC threatening terrorist attacks against the Vatican.

The man, identified only by the initials “J.R.,” left false clues that pointed to the provincial government in the region of Catalonia as the origin of the fax.  Police said that was a tactic to deflect attention.

Officials also said the man was attempting to portray himself as a representative of Al Qaeda, but police appeared skeptical about the connection.

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