Archive of August 15, 2008

Archdiocese of Chicago arrives at $12.6 million sexual abuse settlement for victims

Chicago, Ill., Aug 15, 2008 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Chicago has reached a settlement totaling $12,675,000 with 16 victims of clerical sexual abuse. Speaking about the settlement, Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Cardinal George said he has to “accept the blame” for the abuse which occurred during his tenure.

Fourteen of the cases relate to abuse by ten different priests in incidents occurring between 1962 and 1994. Two relate to Daniel J. McCormack, who in 2007 pled guilty to having abused five children. With the new settlement, the archdiocese has settled four of the five cases to which McCormack pled guilty.

“My hope is that these settlements will help the survivors and their families begin to heal and move forward,” said Cardinal George in an archdiocesan press statement. “I apologize again today to the survivors and their families and to the whole Catholic community. We must continue to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of the children in our care.”

"In the sense I'm responsible for this archdiocese, I have to accept the blame," George said at a Tuesday press conference, according to the Chicago Tribune.

A press release from the Archdiocese of Chicago reported that the settlements were reached through a “comprehensive mediation process” designed by the archdiocese and attorneys for the victims. In the mediation, documents and information were shared, information was publicly disclosed, and a special arbitrator was used to resolve disputes.

Thomas Gibbons, an attorney and dean of the School of Continuing Studies, Northwestern University, served as the mediator and Stuart Nudelman, a retired judge, was the special arbitrator.

Gibbons said the mediation set a standard for “best practices” and can serve as a model for the future. 

During the mediation in January, Cardinal George gave an eight-hour deposition whose text has been posted to the Archdiocese of Chicago’s web site.

In the deposition the cardinal said police, prosecutors, and child welfare officials share some blame for McCormack going free.

The deposition also examined the case of priest Joseph Bennett, showing that the cardinal and church officials had received four detailed allegations of sexual abuse against him dating back to 2002. Despite two removal recommendations from the archdiocese’s review board, he was not removed from Holy Ghost Parish until 2006, the Chicago Tribune says.
Cardinal George said the delay was due to the priest’s lack of representation by a canon lawyer.

Instead of being removed, Bennett was supervised by Father Leonard Dubi, who was apparently a close friend. By the time of Bennett’s removal, he faced more than a dozen allegations of abuse but the archdiocese did not notify parishioners or the public.

In his deposition, Cardinal George said George Rassass, who was then the vicar general but is now auxiliary bishop, along with Father Grace withheld information about McCormack before his promotion to a supervisory role soon after his arrest. Reportedly these actions resulted in a letter of reprimand being placed in their file.

Regarding the case of Norbert Mayday, a priest who is now in a mental institution, Cardinal George said most of the victims he spoke to were most concerned that Mayday would never function as a priest again, “not whether he was in prison or not.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, Jeff Anderson, an attorney for the victims in Chicago and other dioceses, asked Cardinal George whether he is more concerned about the rights of accused priests than protecting children.

“No,” the cardinal answered. “The children at risk were, I thought, protected and they were in this case by the monitoring and the restrictions. I was interested in fairness, the same values that permeate any legal system.”

Therese Albrecht, one of Bennett’s accusers, said she felt ignored when she came forward in 2004 and now feels “indescribable anger and pain.”
“What price can you put on an 8-year-old's virginity?" she said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "He didn't call me up. I never got an apology."

Anderson, an attorney for some of the victims, said the mediation was a “significant step,” an archdiocesan press statement reports.

“The mediation process with the Archdiocese of Chicago was particularly effective because of the courage of the survivors and the personal involvement of Cardinal George,” said Anderson. “Cardinal George was actively involved in this process. He has demonstrated his commitment to healing these survivors. The release of his deposition today is a significant step toward openness and transparency and helps the survivors and the church community in healing and recovery.”

At least 250 people have been sexually abused by clergy in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The archdiocese’s abuse settlements at present total over $77 million.

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Anglican bishops say ‘irreconcilable differences’ driving out some of the ‘faithful'

London, England, Aug 15, 2008 (CNA) - Fourteen traditionalist bishops in the Church of England have written a letter to 1,400 clergy explaining that some faithful Anglicans are faced with “apparently irreconcilable differences” in matters of faith and order. Arguing that the plans to ordain women bishops will exclude substantial numbers of Anglicans, the letter calls for the respect of those who have come to believe they can no longer remain within the Anglican Communion.

The bishops write that they will support clergy who are unable to remain in the Church of England, but they also pledge to reach a better agreement for traditionalists who do not believe women should be consecrated to the episcopacy.

The letter is signed by three senior bishops: Bishop of Chichester John Hind; Bishop of Blackburn Nicholas Reade; and Bishop in Europe Geoffrey Rowell, the UK Telegraph reports.

Addressed to 1,400 clergy who have indicated they are considering leaving the Church of England, the bishops’ letter is highly critical of the Anglican General Synod’s decision to ignore proposals for compromise over the issue of women bishops.

The letter says the present plans would lead to the “inevitable exclusion of substantial numbers of faithful Anglicans from the Church of England.”

“Different decisions should be respected and supported, including that of those who have come to believe that fidelity to the faith we have received means that they can no longer remain within the communion of the Church of England.

"We are faced with apparently irreconcilable differences in matters of faith and order, and it is important to try to conduct all conversations and debates in a spirit of generosity even when church-dividing issues are at stake,” the letter continues, according to the Telegraph.

The letter tells clergy that the situation is not a “necessary conclusion” but the writers admit feelings of pain, bewilderment, and disappointment over the Church of England leaders’ decision to ordain women bishops without providing concessions to objectors.

Bishop Stephen Venner, a deputy of the Archbishop of Canterbury who supports the ordination of women bishops, last month said he felt “ashamed” no compromise had been reached.

“We have talked for hours about how to give an honorable place for those who disagree,” he stated.

"We have turned down almost every realistic opportunity for those who are opposed to flourish."

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‘The Pill’ affects women’s attraction to some men, study suggests

London, England, Aug 15, 2008 (CNA) - A British study of the contraceptive pill suggests the drug can change the kind of men to whom a woman is drawn by unconsciously making genetically incompatible men more attractive to her. The findings suggest factors caused by the Pill could be behind some fertility problems, miscarriages, and relationship breakdowns.

A research team at the University of Liverpool found that the Pill can alter the type of male scent that women find most attractive, possibly affecting the kind of men they choose as mates, the Times reports. The drug is believed to disrupt an instinctive mechanism that helps bring together people with complementary genes and immune systems.

Couples with a wide range of immune system genes have increased chances of having a healthy child who is more resistant to infection.

Couples with different genes are also reportedly less likely to experience fertility problems or miscarriages.

Researchers said if the Pill in fact disrupts women’s attraction to men based on their smell, women who start or stop taking the Pill could no longer find their boyfriend or husband as attractive. This could contribute to the end of such relationships.

Several previous studies have suggested that women tend to prefer the smell of men who are genetically different from them in a cluster of genes called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), which governs the immune system. Some of these studies also claim this effect is not found among Pill users.

In the latest study, published in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society, a group of 97 women was tested, some of whom began taking the Pill during the course of their research. Having had their MHC genes tested, the women were asked to sniff T-shirts worn in bed by men with different patterns of MHC genes.

While the study did not find any preference for dissimilar MHC genes, the women who started taking the Pill had their preferences shift towards the scent of men with genes more similar to their own.

This finding suggests the use of the Pill has an effect on women’s perceptions of scent attractiveness.

“The results showed that the preferences of women who began using the Pill shifted towards men with genetically similar odors,” study leader Craig Roberts said, according to the Times. “Not only could MHC-similarity in couples lead to fertility problems, but it could ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships when women stop using the Pill, as odor perception plays a significant role in maintaining attraction to partners.”

The Pill is the most popular form of contraceptive in England, being used by 25 percent of women ages 16 to 50.

The researchers said more work is needed to explain the differing results of studies examining the relationship of women’s mate preferences to MHC genetic similarity. They further cautioned that the importance of scent in human mating preferences is still uncertain.

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Church cannot betray Gospel or adapt it to society, says Spanish priest

Madrid, Spain, Aug 15, 2008 (CNA) - Spanish priest Father Francisco Javier Ruiz said this week that the role the Church has in today’s world is to bring to it the message of the Gospel, “but what she cannot do is betray the message in order adapt it to society.”
“The truth is always the truth. There are some things that cannot change, because they are things man has received—revealed by God—in Jesus Christ,” and therefore “history and the present moment must adapt to the truth and not vice versa,” the priest said during an interview for the website
After noting that “there is no redemption or salvation” without the Church, he pointed out that despite what is said about her, he has never considered abandoning the Church. “I have never had that thought.  The Lord has given me the gift of a profound love for the Church,” Father Ruiz said.
“I always say that if I could be born again, I would be a priest,” he continued, stressing that “the greatest moment of my day is celebrating the Eucharist and—in the name of Jesus Christ—forgiving sins.”
He also denied that many priests live posh lives, and that instead they give of themselves in service to others.  “Since I have been a priest I haven’t had one minute for myself…I’m very happy being priest,” he said.
Asked about priestly garb, Father Ruiz said he is “convinced that the desire of the Pope—and the sense of the Church—is that priests should dress as clergy.” For this reason, he stressed, “I will always dress as a priest,” as in “a world that is so secularized, where more than ever they want to take God out of everything, we should dress as to make present the mystery of God.”
He concluded by saying that it is not true that young people have lost their faith. “There are more young people in the Church now than ever. Young people are falling in love with Jesus Christ and encountering the mystery of the Cross, in order to confront suffering.  Jesus saves them from the death of sin,” he said.

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McCain has not ruled out pro-choice running mate

Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2008 (CNA) - Speaking on his campaign plane on Wednesday morning, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain said that some potential running mate choices would not necessarily be ruled out because of their support for abortion rights.

The four men most frequently mentioned as potential running mates are reportedly Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Ridge and Lieberman both support permissive abortion laws, while Romney supported abortion rights at least until November 2004.

"I think that the pro-life position is one of the important aspects or fundamentals of the Republican Party," McCain said, according to the Weekly Standard web log. "And I also feel that--and I'm not trying to equivocate here--that Americans want us to work together. You know, Tom Ridge is one of the great leaders and he happens to be pro-choice. And I don't think that that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out."

McCain made these comments while responding to a question about his remarks earlier this year during the Republican primary season concerning whether New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg would make a good running mate. While praising the mayor, Sen. McCain said that Bloomberg’s support for abortion would make such a choice difficult.

In his Wednesday morning comments, McCain said Governor Ridge would be preferable to Mayor Bloomberg.

“I think it's a fundamental tenet of our party to be pro-life but that does not mean we exclude people from our party that are pro-choice,” McCain stated. “We just have a--albeit strong--but just it's a disagreement. And I think Ridge is a great example of that. Far moreso than Bloomberg, because Bloomberg is pro-gay rights, pro, you know, a number of other issues.”

According to the Weekly Standard, Sen. McCain has a solid pro-life record and has promised to appoint “strict constructionists” to the U.S. Supreme Court. His campaign website says McCain believes the Roe v. Wade decision, which mandated legal abortion throughout the U.S., is a “flawed decision that must be overturned.”

Saying the overturning of Roe v. Wade would restore “constitutional balance,” McCain’s website said the senator believes “the difficult issue of abortion should not be decided by judicial fiat.”

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Brazilian Supreme Court to consider anencephaly abortion at end of August

Brasilia, Brazil, Aug 15, 2008 (CNA) - The Supreme Court of Brazil will consider whether to legalize abortion in cases of anencephaly at the end of August, with pro-life groups lining up to present arguments against the support for the change – Catholics for a Free Choice.


According to media reports, arguments will take place August 26-28 with several institutions addressing the Court.  Among them will be: the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil, the National Pro-Life and Pro-Family Association, evangelical leaders, Brazilian medical associations, as well as feminist groups and abortion supporters.




On July 1, 2004, Chief Justice Marco Aurelio Mello approved a request by the National Confederation of Health Care Workers to allow anencephaly abortion.  However, after several weeks of the debate, the full court voted 7-4 against Mello’s decision.


Brazilian media also reported that Justice Mello has not invited parents of anencephaly babies to attend the arguments, such as the mother of Marcela de Jesus Ferreira, who survived for 20 months against all odds despite suffering from the condition, which usually ends in death hours after birth.


Marcela did not die as a result of her birth defect but rather from cardio-respiratory failure due to pneumonia.

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Caritas Georgia and Caritas Russia working together for victims of conflict

Rome, Italy, Aug 15, 2008 (CNA) - Caritas Georgia and Caritas Russia are working together to provide assistance to the thousands of victims of who are suffering due to the conflict between the two countries.

According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the Apostolic Administrator of Caucaso, Bishop Giuseppe Pasotto, said, “There is great fear and disillusionment among Georgians because they think that the bombings will resume at any moment.”

In response to the current crisis, the bishop explained, “Caritas Georgia has begun helping families in difficulties. Fortunately it had first aid supplies and food which it already began to distribute to the different camps taking in those who lost their homes.”  He further explained that the relief effort is being carried out with “the collaboration of the patriarchate.”

L’Osservatore Romano also reports that Caritas Russia has visited the camps together with leaders of the Orthodox Church to determine how to initiate assistance from Catholics for those impacted by the conflict. According to statistics, some 40,000 people in Georgia have become refugees during the conflict with Russia.

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Episcopal Bishop clarifies nature of conversations with Catholic diocese in Texas

Fort Worth, Texas, Aug 15, 2008 (CNA) - Responding to recent reports regarding ongoing conversations between the Episcopal and the Catholic dioceses of Fort Worth (Texas), the Episcopal bishop, Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker issued a statement this week explaining that the short-term goal is not aimed at bringing Episcopalians into the Catholic Church.

Reports from earlier this summer stated that four Episcopal priests had been in conversation with Bishop Kevin Vann of the Fort Worth Catholic Diocese.  According to those reports, the Episcopal priests were seeking guidance on how the diocese might come into "full communion" with the Catholic church.

In his statement, Bishop Iker expressed that he is aware of the meeting held on June 16, 2008.

“After a year of studying various agreed statements that have come out of ecumenical dialogues between Anglicans and Roman Catholics on the national and international level, these (Episcopal) clergy expressed an interest in having a dialogue on the local level and asked my permission to make an appointment to talk with Bishop Vann. The stated goal of these official Anglican/Roman Catholic dialogues (which have been going on for over 40 years) has been full, visible unity between the two communions,” the statement says.

Bishop Iker also clarifies that, although the four priest count on his “full support”, “they have not claimed to act or speak, nor have they been authorized to do so, either on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth or on my own behalf as their Bishop.”

He also explains that the conversations with Bishop Vann will have “no bearing upon matters coming before our Diocesan Convention in November, where a second vote will be taken on constitutional changes concerning our relationship with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church,” and that “there is no proposal under consideration, either publicly or privately, for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth to become part of the Roman Catholic Church.”

“After the November vote, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth intends to break away from the Episcopal Church in the US and enter under the jurisdiction of “an orthodox Province as a constituent member of the worldwide Anglican Communion”.

The move is a reaction of the Episcopal diocese to the ordination of the first openly homosexual bishop, Eugene Robinson.

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Guatemalan lawmakers sign “Book of Life” despite harassment from abortion supporters

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Aug 15, 2008 (CNA) - Led by the president of the Congress, 71 Guatemalan lawmakers signed the “Book of Life,” a document in which they commit to defend life from conception to natural death despite pressure from abortion supporters who protested outside the Congressional building.

The ceremony was attended by Archbishop Victor Hugo Palma, who reminded lawmakers that they have been elected by the people “to preserve life, a divine gift from God.”  Evangelical leaders and the Congressional Board of Directors were also in attendance.

Congressman Roberto Alejos said the signing of the document was in keeping with the country’s Constitution, which grants protection to human life from the moment of conception.

The “Book of Life” was already signed by 84 lawmakers in El Salvador.  The initiative began in Honduras and organizers hope the document will be signed in every country in Central America.  The next stop for the Book will be Costa Rica, with Panama and Mexico possibly being next in line.

Regina Cardenal, president of the Salvadoran foundation Yes to Life, said that the signing of the Book is aimed at “creating awareness” among the legislative bodies of Central America of the importance of protecting life, especially the life of the unborn.

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The Blessed Mother watches over all her children, says Holy Father

Castelgandolfo, Italy, Aug 15, 2008 (CNA) - Overlooking the courtyard at the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict recited the Angelus with those present for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The Pontiff stressed that from Heaven, the Mother of God, continues “to watch over the children that Jesus himself entrusted to Her before dying on the cross.”

Noting that Mary’s “maternal love is apparent in the many sanctuaries dedicated to her,” the Holy Father recalled, the city of Lourdes, “where, God willing, I will go in a month, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions that took place there.”

“Mary being assumed into Heaven shows us the ultimate goal of our pilgrimage on earth.  She reminds us that our whole being – spirit, soul, and body - is destined for the fullness of life, that those who live and die in love of God and neighbor will be transformed in the image of the glorious body of the risen Christ, the Lord who humbles the proud and extols the lowly (cf. Luke 1.51-52).  This is what the Virgin proclaims forever in the mystery of her Assumption.  May you always be praised, O Virgin Mary!  Pray to the Lord for us!”

At the conclusion of today’s Angelus, the Pope addressed the English-speaking pilgrims saying, “As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, we are invited to raise our eyes to heaven and contemplate Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. She who on earth believed in God’s word is now glorified in body and soul.”

“May Mary’s prayers and example guide you always and renew your hearts in faith and hope. May God grant you and your families abundant blessings of peace and joy!”

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Eighty-four percent of Norway Down’s syndrome diagnoses result in abortion, study claims

Trondheim, Norway, Aug 15, 2008 (CNA) - A newly published Norwegian study of prenatal detection of Down's syndrome, trisomy 21, claims that 84 percent of babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome in Norway are aborted. The study also says that prenatal detection of Down’s syndrome was “poor” during the study period, which lasted from 1987 to 2004. The poor detection rate could mean that false “positives” have led to the abortion of healthy children.

The study was conducted by the Norwegian National Center for Fetal Medicine and published in the August 2008 issue of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology, says. The study used data in which all cases of Down’s syndrome were registered and detected either by genetic testing through amniocentesis or post-birth evaluation.
The study found prenatal testing to be highly inaccurate, saying “the prenatal detection rate was only 43 percent.”

The study results are consistent with other research finding that prenatal screening is less accurate than previously thought. A report published in the journal Nature in 2006 found that prenatal screening may have incorrectly diagnosed genetic variations as defects, possibly leading to selective abortion based on inaccurate reports of genetic abnormality.

A study published by Brian Skotko of the National Down's Syndrome Congress in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2005 found medical professionals are inclined to offer abortion to mothers after amniocentesis testing indicates Down’s Syndrome.

Noting that it is now standard to offer pregnant women prenatal screening for Down’s syndrome, especially women over 35, Skotko said such testing “does not give a certain diagnosis of Down's Syndrome, but only a percentage possibility.”

Skotko said that even uncertain prenatal diagnoses of Down’s syndrome have resulted in an abortion rate as high as 90 percent for fetuses when diagnosed.

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Dutch authorities now recognizing polygamous marriages contracted abroad

Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Aug 15, 2008 (CNA) - Dutch authorities have recognized the marriages of Muslims who have several wives even though polygamy is banned in the Netherlands.

While bigamous or polygamous marriages are prohibited in the Netherlands, registrars accept marriages contracted in countries where more than one wife is permitted, a Netherlands Information Services news bulletin says.

Local authorities register all the marriages of immigrants possessing several wives who settle in the Netherlands.

It is not known how common polygamy is in the Netherlands because the Central Bureau for Statistics removes bigamous or polygamous marriages from its files on the assumption the records were created through administrative errors.

Spokesman T. Verhoeven of Rotterdam’s city council said polygamous marriages are registered almost every week. “They are simply acknowledged. It is important for us to check that the documents are authentic and that the husband does not have Dutch nationality,” he explained, saying the registration of such marriages in Rotterdam is “practically never” refused.

In Amsterdam local government employees must inform the authorities if they suspect marriages of convenience or exploitation of women are factors, but a spokeswoman said such suspicions have never been reported.

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