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Archive of March 13, 2010

Tennessee Catholics help homeless families through bike ride

Memphis, Tenn., Mar 13, 2010 (CNA) - On March 27, local participants will be riding for homeless families in Memphis, Tennessee for the Dorothy Day Family Fun Ride. The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality, a transitional housing ministry that allows homeless families to stay together as a family while they rebuild their lives, is hosting this first annual fundraising event.

"The Dorothy Day Family Fun Ride is a chance for families to have fun together, riding their bikes with other families and/or individual participants at Overton Park, while raising money for this important ministry" said Michael Synk, ride director.

The event will be held on March 27, and will begin at the Levitt Shell, with check in from 9-10 a.m. Riders who register by March 20 will receive a t-shirt and gift bag commemorating the event.

The Peddler Bike Shop will be conducting free safety inspections of bikes and Little Caesars will be providing pizza for the lunch. Other sponsors include Knowledge Tree, Senior Risk, @ Home Computers, Blue Sky Couriers, Fulmer Companies, Strategic Resource Management, master-IT, Boyle Insurance, Corporate IQ, and Mangiante Photography.

"The goal of the bike ride is to raise funds and awareness for this important ministry" said Sister Maureen Griner O.S.U., co-director of the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality. "We've been able to help 13 families stay together and get back on their feet in the past few years. The money raised in this event helps us serve families and keep the lights on."

The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality, accepts intact families with children of all ages. Throughout their stay, families are assisted with educational resources and guidance, parenting skills, employment counseling, prospective job contacts, transportation assistance, referrals for child care, financial and budgeting advice, personal counseling, advocacy and mentoring, and access to sources of permanent housing.

For more information, visit: http://familyfunride.eventbrite.com or http://www.dorothydaymemphis.org.

Printed with permission from the West Tennessee Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Memphis.

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‘Where is the freedom?’ Iraqi sister asks after more anti-Christian violence in Mosul

Adrian, Mich., Mar 13, 2010 (CNA) - A religious sister from Mosul reports that Iraqi Christians continue to leave the country because they are targeted by violence. In a CNA interview, she said many people are suffering and tired of the conflict. “Where is the freedom?” she asked.

For eleven years Sister Aman Miriam has been a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq. Her motherhouse is in Mosul, an ancient center of Christianity that now stands at the center of anti-Christian violence.

Bomb attacks have targeted several churches in Mosul. In recent weeks extremists killed at least eight Christians in the city.

Speaking with CNA in a Thursday phone interview, Sr. Aman said she has lived and ministered with the Adrian Dominicans in Michigan since September 2005.

There Sr. Aman is among five young Iraqi religious sisters engaged in ministry and study.

She said Mosul has been in a “waiting period” pending results of the March 7 elections.

“The situation is not safe,” she said of Mosul. Parents there are not sure that “if they send their children to school they will be back or not.”

“People are suffering violence very day. What do you expect them to do?” Sr. Aman asked. “They do whatever they can to save their children’s lives.” 

She reported that over 4,000 people fled from Mosul to her hometown which is outside that city, while “many thousands” left for other villages.

“If the situation calms down, they go back to their houses. If not, they stay where they are. They choose to stay in the villages for the sake of their children.”

Threats against Christians come through phone calls, text messages, and papers thrown in their houses.

“They are not able to practice their faith, they are not able to go to church,” she explained.

On Wednesday the religious sister had spoken by phone with her prioress, who told her, “We don’t know what is going to happen.”

CNA asked whether most Christians are in fact trying to leave Iraq.

 Sr. Aman replied that there were over two million Christians in Iraq before the war.

“Right now we are 300,000 people there.”

The security situation is so uncertain because some are “doing their best” to protect the country, while others “are working behind the scenes, taking a lot of effort to destroy the innocent people.” Sr. Aman  reported that terrorists sometimes even dress as police, making people even more doubtful about who to trust.

CNA asked what she would say to President Barack Obama if given the opportunity to speak with him about Iraqi Christians.

“Where is the freedom?” Sr. Aman replied.

“When the war started, it was to give the freedom to Iraqi people from the prior government. Where is the freedom now?”

The Iraqi sister added that she would also like to tell President Obama that the American people need to know the violence continues even though it isn't shown on television in the United States. The little bit of information about the real situation in Iraq that is in newspapers is not enough to tell the truth of the continuing violence, she said.

Sr. Aman recounted that under the previous government, people remained outside until 11 or 12 at night. After the invasion, they were afraid to be out later than 3 or 5 in the afternoon.

In the years after the invasion, the U.S. Army had freedom of movement, but Iraqi citizens did not.

In the Dominican sister’s view, if other countries had wanted to help Iraq there were “many ways to approach it, not by violence or by war.”

She also thought Iraq’s unprotected open borders after the U.S. invasion allowed other terrorists to enter the country.

Sr. Aman reflected further on what she would say to the American president.

“We are human beings, as you are here,” she continued. “There are many, many, many, many people suffering in Iraq. Why? Aren’t they human beings like here? Haven’t they the right to live the life that God gave to all of his creatures?

“We are all God’s creatures, His sons and daughters. Why is this happening to us?”

At present only five to six sisters remain at Sr. Aman’s motherhouse in Mosul.

“Generally the sisters who are really living in the situation in Iraq, they are tired. The people are tired,” she told CNA. “But they are doing their best to give hope, to accompany the Church, to accompany the Christians in their journey and hardship.

“But I would say to you: they are tired, like other people.”

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Court rules 'under God' as constitutional in Pledge of Allegiance

San Francisco, Calif., Mar 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A San Francisco court ruled Thursday that the phrase “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.

The decision, made by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, reverses a 2002 rejection of the phrase which was backed at the time by atheist activist Dr. Michael Nedow. Non-profit civil rights law firm the Beckett Fund began to argue the 2002 decision with the Court two years ago.

“The Ninth Circuit finally stood up for the Pledge,” said Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson of the Becket Fund who argued the case. “The Court has just said what was self-evident to Thomas Jefferson and the signers of our Declaration of Independence in 1776 – our rights are unalienable precisely because they come not from the State, but from the Creator.”

The Court was influenced in its ruling by the Beckett Fund's argument for the constitutionality of the words “under God” in the pledge. The non-profit group stated that Congress' purpose in devising the pledge was “to underscore the political philosophy of the Founding Fathers that God granted certain inalienable rights to the people which the government cannot take away.”

The Beckett Fund also acted in the case on behalf of parents and schoolchildren in the Sacramento public school district as well as the Knights of Columbus who spearheaded the initiative to add “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1955.

“This decision is a victory for common sense,” Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said on Thursday. “Today, the Court got it absolutely right: recitation of the Pledge is a patriotic exercise, not a religious prayer. Best of all, the Court said that the words 'under God' add a 'note of importance which a Pledge to our Nation ought to have and which in our culture ceremonial references to God arouse.' Every reasonable person knows that, and today's decision is a breath of fresh air from a court system that has too often seemed to be almost allergic to public references to God.”

“This is a very good day for America,” Anderson added.

In their decision on Thursday, the Ninth Circuit also asserted that because saying the pledge is voluntary, efforts by the plaintiffs to remove certain parts of it is an attempt to suppress the free speech of others. “What is at issue is not saying the Pledge or affirming a belief in God. What is at issue is whether Roechild (Dr. Newdow’s anonymous client) can prevent other students, who have no such objection, from saying the Pledge,” stated the court.

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Vatican: Pope was 'completely extraneous' to Munich sex abuse decision

Vatican City, Mar 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See's Press Office, released a statement on Saturday morning in which he made three "observations" regarding sexual abuse by people and in institutions of the Catholic Church. He also dismissed as unfounded attempts to link the Pope to a decision to transfer a priest found to have committed sexual abuse when Benedict XVI was Archbishop of Munich.

The first of the three "observations" made by Fr. Lombardi was to point out that the "line taken" by the German Bishops' Conference has been confirmed as the correct path to confront the problem in its different aspects.

Fr. Lombardi included some elements of the statement made by Archbishop Robert Zollitsch at a Friday press conference following his audience with the Pope. The Vatican spokesman highlighted the approach established by the German bishops to respond to the possible abuses: "recognizing the truth and helping the victims, reinforcing the preventions and collaborating constructively with the authorities - including those of the state judiciaries - for the common good of society."

Fr. Lombardi drew attention to Archbishop Zollitsch's affirmation, without any doubts, of the expert opinion that the vow of celibacy of the priest has no relationship to cases of pedophilia.

He also reaffirmed that the Holy Father supports the German bishops in their plan and that this approach could be considered "useful and inspiring" to other episcopal conferences in similar situations.

Secondly, Fr. Lombardi referred to the interview given to Avvenire by the "promoter of justice" from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, who explained in detail the norms of the Church for investigating cases of sexual abuse of minors.

The Vatican spokesman highlighted the most important element of the interview: that the Church has in no way promoted hiding the crimes, but has put an "intense activity" in motion to confront, judge and punish them in an appropriate manner "within the framework of ecclesiastical ordinance."

He also wrote that it is important to note that special attention was given to these themes when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, was the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"His line has always been that of rigor and coherence in confronting even the most difficult situations," added Fr. Lombardi.

The final observation Fr. Lombardi made was that a recent communique from the Archdiocese of Munich answers questions about a priest who was found guilty of abuses after being transferred from Essen to Munich, where Cardinal Ratzinger was archbishop at the time. The communique, he stressed, shows that the archbishop was completely "extraneous" to the decisions made after the abuses were verified.

"It's rather evident that in recent days there are those who have sought - with a certain tenacity, in Regensburg and in Munich - elements for personally involving the Holy Father in the questions of the abuses. For every objective observer, it's clear that these efforts have failed," he stated.

The Vatican spokesman concluded by reaffirming that "despite the tempest," the Church sees the course to follow "under the sure and rigorous guide of the Holy Father."

Fr. Lombardi concluded by expressing his hope that the process might help all of society to "take charge" of improving ways to protect and form children and youth.

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Pope's former archdiocese clarifies details of abusive priest's placement

Munich, Germany, Mar 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The vicar general of the Archdiocese of Munich has owned up to his responsibility in making the "mistaken decisions" that led to the repeated placement of an abusive priest in parishes while Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was archbishop there. The former vicar general, Gerhard Gruber, said it was a "serious mistake."

The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano published the full text of the communique from the Archdiocese of Munich and Friesing regarding the timeline of the decisions and an apology from the former vicar general.

In it, the archdiocese explains that a group supervised by the current vicar general Monsignor Peter Beer was examining past cases of abuse when they discovered a case from the 80s in which "grave errors" were found in the treatment of information concerning a priest.

The statement proposes that "despite the accusations of sexual abuses and regardless of a sentence," a priest named simply "H.," "was repeatedly employed in the pastoral care of the vicar general of that time, Gerhard Gruber."

"Gruber assumes full responsibility for these mistaken decisions," the statement says.

According to the investigations of the work group, Fr. "H." was transfered to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising in 1980 by request of the Diocese of Essen. He underwent therapy in Munich, presumably due to having had sexual relations with children, reads the archdiocesan statement.

In the same year the decision was made along with Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger that the priest would reside in a parish house while continuing therapy.

"In spite of this decision, though, H. was destined, without restrictions, by the vicar general of that time to collaborate in the pastoral care of a parish of Munich.

From Feb. 1, 1980 to Aug. 31, 1982 there were no reports of abuse or accusations against Fr. "H.," the archdiocesan statement states. Cardinal Ratzinger was the archbishop of Munich and Freising from May 28, 1977 to Feb. 15, 1982.

In Sept. 1982, Fr. "H." was sent to Grafing to work in a parish where he stayed until 1985. At this point, he was relieved of his duties due to accusations of sexual abuse, and in June of 1986 he received a jail sentence of 18 months, which was suspended in place of a monetary fine.

After working as a chaplain for the elderly from 1986 to 1987, he was placed once again in a parish, at Garching/Alz, where he worked first as the parish priest, then as the parish administrator. He stayed there until 2008.

A "medical-legal evaluation" was done by request of Archbishop Reinhard Marx in 2008 and Fr. "H." was removed from pastoral work and made chaplain for treatment centers and tourism with the condition that he would not work further with children or young people.

Ex-vicar general Gerhard Gruber explained, "The repeated employment of H. in pastoral care was a grave error. I assume full responsibility for it. I deplore profoundly that, due to this decision, crimes may have come about against young people and I ask forgiveness of all of those who have been caused harm."

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Pope showed wisdom and firmness against abuses as CDF prefect, says Msgr. Scicluna

Vatican City, Mar 13, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Avvenire newspaper of the Italian Bishops' Conference printed an interview on Saturday which sheds light on how cases of sexual abuse are dealt with in the Catholic Church. The role of then-Cardinal Ratzinger in the providing the guidelines for the Congregation's processing of 3,000 cases in the last nine years is also examined.

Avvenire interviewed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's "promoter of justice," Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, who investigates crimes against the Eucharist, the sanctity of the Sacrament of Penance and the sixth commandment, "You shall not commit adultery," all of which fall under the category of "delicta graviora" (serious transgressions).

In the interview, which is printed in its entirety in English on Vatican Radio's website, Msgr. Scicluna affirms the Church's historically firm stance against pedophilia, saying that "the condemnation of this kind of crime has always been firm and unequivocal." He concedes, however, that in practice "It may be that in the past - perhaps also out of a misdirected desire to protect the good name of the institution - some bishops were ... too indulgent towards this sad phenomenon."

He added that secrecy in the cases has not been practiced to hide facts, but has been employed in the "investigative phase" to protect "the good name of all the people involved; first and foremost, the victims themselves, then the accused priests who have the right - as everyone does - to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty."

"The Church does not like showcase justice," he underscored.

Msgr. Scicluna said that the accusation that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had covered up the facts as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is "false and calumnious." He added that the future Pope had displayed "great wisdom and firmness in handling those cases."

"Therefore," he said, "to accuse the current Pontiff of a cover-up is, I repeat, false and calumnious."

A "poor" translation of the English version of a text called “Instruction Crimen Sollicitation” from Pius XI's pontificate in 1922, "has led people to think that the Holy See imposed secrecy in order to hide the facts," he explained.

Msgr. Scicluna revealed that when a priest is accused of a delictum gravius (serious transgressions), first the local bishop must investigate the accusation and find it to be well founded. If the outcome of the first investigation sustains the accusations, the case is referred to the disciplinary office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In the last nine years, said Msgr. Scicluna, the Congregation has dealt with three thousand cases of crimes committed over the last fifty years by diocesan and religious priests. He added that "about 60 percent of the cases chiefly involved sexual attraction towards adolescents of the same sex, another 30 percent involved heterosexual relations, and the remaining 10 percent were cases of pedophilia in the true sense of the term."

These 300 cases, he continued, "are of course too many, but it must be recognized that the phenomenon is not as widespread as has been believed."

Of those accused, twenty percent had a full trial, the majority of which resulted in convictions, he indicated. Sixty percent of cases did not go to trial, mostly due to the advanced age of the accused, but, he assured, administrative and disciplinary provisions have been issued against them.

"It must be made absolutely clear that in these cases, some of which are particularly sensational and have caught the attention of the media, no absolution (of the crime) has taken place," he emphasized.

For 10 percent of the remaining 20 percent of cases, "in which the proof is overwhelming, the Holy Father has assumed the painful responsibility of authorizing a decree of dismissal from the clerical state."

In the final 10 percent the accused priests themselves requested dispensation from their priestly obligations, "requests which were promptly accepted," the monsignor said.

Most of the 3,000 cases, he said, have come from the United States, but the percentage of cases from the U.S. has dropped in recent years.

Last year, of 223 cases reported worldwide, around 25 percent came from the U.S.

Although there has been an average of 250 cases a year in the last few years, Msgr. Scicluna said the number is "reduced."

"It must, in fact, be borne in mind that the overall number of diocesan and religious priests in the world is four hundred thousand, but this statistic does not correspond to the perception that is created when these sad cases occupy the front pages of the newspapers," he said.

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