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Archive of August 30, 2005

Catholic League president: Church must start playing hardball against victimization

, Aug 30, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday, William Donahue, president of the Catholic League for religious and civil rights called recent verbal attacks on Archbishop William Levada, and legal bullying in the diocese of Spokane, WA, “outrageous” and “no longer about” the alleged victims of the sexual abuse scandal.

“The sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church”, he said, “is no longer about the alleged victims—they have had their day in court—it is about the victimization of the Catholic Church. The time has come for the Catholic Church to put the vultures in their place.”

Donahue cited recent slams on newly elected head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Levada of San Francisco, who was bishop of Spokane prior to that.

He said that author Jason Berry’s “savage attack on the former San Francisco Archbishop includes the vicious allegation that Levada ‘worked tirelessly throughout his career to protect sexual predator priests.’”

“Now if this were true,” Donahue pointed out, “then Berry—who has made a career out of writing about this subject—would have blown the whistle on Levada long ago. So why didn’t he? Could it be because Levada is a much juicer subject these days (he is Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)? What makes this so ugly is the fact that when Levada was auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles in 1985, he was one of the first bishops in the nation to seriously address this issue!”

“In short, what Berry has done is yellow journalism,” he said.

Donahue also noted a federal court decision in Spokane, which ruled Friday that all diocesan assets are now fair game for liquidation to pay for claims made by victims of priestly abuse.

“At a minimum,” he responded, “separation of church and state means that sitting judges have no right to make determinations regarding the organizational chart of the Catholic Church. But that is exactly what’s being done. By declaring all diocesan assets fair game for every steeple-chasing lawyer, a green light has been given to plunder the resources of the Catholic Church.”

“This”, he said, “has gone too far.”

Although Spokane’s Bishop William Skylstad has decided to appeal the decision, Donahue said that, “Bishops would do well not to listen to those who always want to settle and start playing hardball. It’s time to countersue.”

Added Donahue: “No amount of wrongdoing by some priests can ever justify attempts to subvert the Catholic Church, whether by the media or by the courts.”

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Diocese to appeal court decision that parishes can be liquidated; claims breach of church/state separation

Spokane, Wash., Aug 30, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Washington has announced that his diocese will appeal a federal court ruling which, on Friday, declared all parishes in the diocese assets which can be liquidated to pay for claims by alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests.

Bishop Skylstad, who also holds the post of president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement released from Eastern Europe, where he is currently traveling, that

"The court's decision has national consequences.”

“Its impact”, he said, “will be felt not just by Catholic communities but by many other church communities of any denomination, of any faith expression."

In December of last year, the diocese filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection citing $11.1 million in assets and $83.1 million in liabilities from abuse victims seeking compensation.

Diocesan parishes and schools were not included in that figure as, according to Canon Law, the bishop is only steward of them--the parishes themselves control their own actual assets.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Patricia Williams’ Friday decision however, ignores this fact, opining that civil property laws supersede Church law.

In her decision, Williams wrote, "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."

Lawyers for, and supporters of the diocese however, disagree.

Bishop Skylstad wrote that he would "appeal this decision because we have a responsibility not only to victims but to the generations of parishioners ... who have given so generously of themselves" to build up the church in eastern Washington.

William Donahue, president of the Catholic League, called the ruling “outrageous,” saying that “At a minimum, separation of church and state means that sitting judges have no right to make determinations regarding the organizational chart of the Catholic Church. But that is exactly what’s being done.”

“By declaring all diocesan assets fair game for every steeple-chasing lawyer,” he continued, “a green light has been given to plunder the resources of the Catholic Church.”

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Archdiocese of Newark hopes new on-line giving system will increase stewardship

Newark, N.J., Aug 30, 2005 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey has announced that it will begin using an on-line giving system called ParishPay, in hopes that the new program will increase the amount and ease of stewardship--giving one’s gifts back to God--among the faithful.

David Osborne, Director of Stewardship and Planned Giving for the one million, three hundred-member Archdiocese, said that “Before approving ParishPay, we spoke to several other Archdioceses, each of which highly recommended the company."

"Like in many areas of their daily lives,” he said, “many Catholics find automated giving more efficient and convenient than the weekly collection, and that is the way of the future. We also believe that ParishPay could help to substantially increase annual giving while stabilizing seasonal cash flows, which usually fluctuate from parishioner vacations, illness and travel -all very good news for our pastors and business managers."

While the Archdiocese is excited about features which ease the giving process, like automated receipts and annual tax statements, they are particularly hopeful that the on-line program will encourage Newark’s mission of stewardship to God and the Church.

Osborne said that, "We pray that more parishioners will embrace stewardship, the Christian way of responding to God with our resources."

"The ParishPay system and methods”, he said, “encourage people to reflect prayerfully upon what has been given to them by God and what they wish to give in return. Those who choose to give through ParishPay will make qualitative, longer-term decisions about what they want to give within the context of stewardship."

Tim Dockery, who is president of ParishPay LLC, and former Executive Director of Development in the Archdiocese of Chicago, said that the idea of stewardship is deeply rooted in ParishPay’s company mission.

"Catholics”, he said, “must think carefully about how much money they want deducted automatically. We call this ‘reflective’ rather than ‘reflexive’ giving. It is one reason why ParishPay is being welcomed in dioceses across the country and why we are elated to perform our mission of increasing gifts at their churches.”

ParishPay was founded in 2001 to, as they say, “empower each parish in America to accept gifts in the same way as their secular counterparts have - with better support, technology, marketing tools, and infrastructure.”

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Serving coffee and Scripture, Catholic outreach café to close after one year

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 30, 2005 (CNA) - Business was growing, the coffee was great, and the Word divine, but after one year in operation, a Catholic coffee and sandwich shop in Phoenix has decided to close its doors.

Café Fiat opened in July 2004 when a group of young lay Catholics decided to combine evangelization with the casual, unimposing atmosphere of a coffee shop.

"If people asked, we would talk about [our faith]," Steve Phelan told the Arizona Republic. "It is like reintroducing Catholicism to mainstream culture."

Phelan, Bill and Minden Agar, Teresa Revering and JoAnne Bouchard worked at Maggie's Place, a home for unwed expectant mothers, and decided to enter this faith-inspired venture together.

The café drew quite a bit of interest and a regular, varied clientele. Even Bishop Thomas Olmsted has stopped by a few times. And, despite its founding mission, employees did not push their faith on customers but allowed questions to emerge naturally.

The closing comes because the Agars, who own the property and have operated the cafe, will be having a child. In a letter on the café Web site, they explained that with a child on the way, they "have taken the café as far as they can and are no longer able to carry the responsibility of its operations.”

Even though the place will close after business hours Saturday, efforts to find new investors, owners or operators will continue, Phelan said. But while some options have presented themselves, nothing concrete has developed yet.

To visit Café Fiat’s website go to: http://www.cafefiat.com/

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Bishop ‘dismayed’ as abortion doctor receives public honor

Ottawa, Canada, Aug 30, 2005 (CNA) - The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ president expressed great dismay that Canada’s most notorious abortion doctor received a prestigious national award earlier this month.

Dr. Henry Morgentaler received the 2005 Couchiching Award for Public Policy Leadership Aug. 5, during the 74th annual Couchiching Conference. The award was sponsored by SunLife Financial.

“How someone who has led a movement that causes the death of approximately 100,000 innocent persons a year in Canada can be said to ‘have had a positive impact on Canada or a community within Canada’ defies the imagination,” said Archbishop Brendan O’Brien.

The award is presented to “a nationally recognized Canadian who has demonstrated leadership in a public policy field, often in the face of public opposition, and whose initiatives have had a positive impact on Canada or a community within Canada.” 

Archbishop O’Brien expressed the hope that the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, which describes itself as “Canada’s largest, oldest and most influential public affairs forum”, will find recipients in the future who are more worthy of its award.

This was the second public honor for Morgentaler this year. In June the Western University recognized him with an honorary doctorate. The university proceeded with the award despite protests from faith leaders and pro-life citizens.

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Five exorcisms per day taking place in Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 30, 2005 (CNA) - At the recent National Congress of Exorcists held at the headquarters of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, organizers revealed that up to five exorcisms per day are taking place in the country.

The number of daily exorcisms has been climbing since the 1960s, according to researchers.  In the central Federal District of Mexico alone there are eight priests authorized by the Holy See to perform exorcisms in order to expel demons in the name of Jesus according to the rites and norms of the Catholic Church.

One these priests is Father Pedro Mendoza, who noted that there is one exorcists “per vicariate (of the Archdiocese) and we have four or five cases every day.  We have a day of prayer for liberation with about 30 or 40 people.”  “It’s a special liturgy with special prayers of the Church which must be followed by the exorcist, almost like the celebration of a sacrament,” he added.

Another priest, Father Abel Lopez, said that when a person is possessed by the devil, it becomes apparent in his or her way of behaving and speaking, as the person’s tone of voice tends to be more aggressive.  Nevertheless, several scientific specialists are needed in order to determine if a person is possessed.  “So the bishop has to send psychologists, psychiatrists and doctors to give a diagnosis and to decide whether or not the person is possessed,” Father Lopez stated.

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Argentina celebrates “National Day of Solidarity” honoring Mother Teresa

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 30, 2005 (CNA) - In order to commemorate the birthday of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the government of Argentina, at the request of the country’s bishops, declared the day of August 26 as the “National Day of Solidarity,” in order to honor all those who engage in works of solidarity during their free time. 

Teachers, students, members of religious communities and members of social organizations who participated in the local “Parliament for Peace” all joined in marking the event.

Father Fabian Nieva, advisor to Caritas International, noted that in Argentina, the people are increasingly embracing solidarity as a virtue.  At the same time, he said that solidarity should not be practiced only in extreme situations—such as disasters or floods—but should rather be part of an everyday attitude.

In the northern Argentine province of Tucuman alone there are almost 10,000 volunteers who engage in works of solidarity with Caritas and other Catholic NGOs.

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