Archive of February 5, 2011

Diocese of Wilmington agrees to $77.4 million sex abuse settlement

Wilmington, Del., Feb 5, 2011 (CNA) - The Diocese of Wilmington has reached an agreement to pay sexual abuse survivors more than $77.4 million to settle more than 150 abuse claims as part of its efforts to exit bankruptcy.

The agreement, part of Chapter 11 bankruptcy mediation, was reached on Feb. 2, the diocesan newspaper The Dialog reports. It ends pending lawsuits against the diocese and several parishes and commits the diocese to give abuse survivors its files on suspected sexual abusers.

In a Feb. 3 letter to the people of his diocese, Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington said the agreement means the $3 million judgment against St. Elizabeth Parish will be paid from the settlement and so will spare the church’s parishioners a “tremendous” financial burden.

The agreement also preserves the diocese’s lay employee pension fund. The settlement is $3.4 million higher than the amount the diocese offered in its plan proposed on Jan. 10.

Under the agreement, Bishop Malooly will continue to meet any abuse survivor who wishes to meet with him and will send a letter of apology to survivors and their families. Each of the diocese’s institutions will display a plaque stating that sexual abuse of any kind will not be tolerated.

“It is our hope and prayer that the settlement's monetary and non-monetary terms will begin the healing process for clergy sexual abuse survivors,” the bishop wrote.

In a separate statement, he said the settlement meets the diocese’s goals of compensating survivors while continuing its charitable, educational and spiritual works.

Seven other Catholic U.S. dioceses –in Alaska, Arizona, California, Iowa, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin–have filed for bankruptcy during the past decade because of similar abuse claims and subsequent costs and settlements.

The settlement does not include sex abuse suits against religious orders in the Diocese of Wilmington. Victims’ attorney Thomas S. Neuberger has said he will seek as much as $80 million from the orders.

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Catholic bishops place bets on Steelers-Packers Super Bowl

Denver, Colo., Feb 5, 2011 (CNA) - Ahead of the Super Bowl, Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay and Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh have made a friendly wager on the outcome of the NFL Championship game.

If the Pittsburgh Steelers win, Bishop Ricken will make a personal donation to Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh. If the Green Bay Packers win, Bishop Zubik will donate to Catholic Charities Green Bay.

Bishop Zubik said in a Feb. 2 press release that both bishops have wagered a “wide variety of local foods” to be donated to a food kitchen in the diocese of the winner.

Deacon Ray DuBois, director of communications at the Diocese of Green Bay, told CNA on Feb. 4 that there has been quite a bit of interest in the wager because Bishop Zubik was the previous Bishop of Green Bay.

Both bishops felt that any wager should “recognize the role that our fans play in the teams’ success” while also benefiting those who are “often ignored throughout all the hoopla.”

“The Packers are very much a part of our community, particularly since we are a geographical area with a large percentage of Catholics,” Deacon DuBois explained.

Bishop Zubik, a Pittsburgh native, commented on his split loyalties:

“I have great love for the church of Green Bay. That does not extend to the Packers in the Super Bowl. Go Steelers!”

However, he was more conciliatory in his comments to The Compass, the newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay. He said that even if the Steelers lose his other favorite team will win the championship.

“Both teams have fans that are very loyal and who know how to have a good time,” the bishop said. “Both cities have people of faith. I will never forget the wonderful people of Green Bay and northeast Wisconsin, so I'm thrilled.”

He noted that Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is “well respected” in his hometown of Pittsburgh, where he attended a Catholic high school.

Last year, Archbishop Daniel Buechlein of Indianapolis lost a Super Bowl bet to Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans when the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts. Archbishop Buechlein sent southern Indiana pork chops to the Crescent City.

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As Egypt protests continue, Cairo patriarch concerned about rise of a ‘religious state’

Rome, Italy, Feb 5, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The head of Egypt’s tiny Catholic minority is urging a return to order in the country after 11 days of anti-government protests.

Patriarch Cardinal Antonios Naguib of Cairo praised the largely peaceful demonstrations. However, he warned that their efforts will have been in vain if the outcome is an Egypt ruled by Islamic extremists.

In the face of protesters’ demands that he resign, President Hosni Mubarak appointed a vice-president and announced he would leave office in September.

“Now it remains to be seen who will take up the succession and what direction they will move ahead,” Patriarch Naguib told CNA in an e-mail on Feb. 4.

“If the State is a civil state, based on equality, citizenship and law, as many are asking for, it will be an historic success. If, on the other hand, it is transformed into a religious state, we will have lost all of the past acquisitions, and the entire population will suffer — Christians and Muslims.”

The Patriarch said the demonstrations have been marked by a spirit of Muslim-Christian cooperation.

“Christians and also a great many Muslims have lived and are still living this beautiful experience, it is hoped that this spirit and this cooperation last,” he said.

Catholics — who make up only five percent of Egypt’s Christian minority in a country that is 90 percent Muslim — aren’t likely to play much of a role in the deliberations over Egypt’s future.

Egyptian authorities ordinarily identify the head of the country’s Coptic Orthodox Church, Patriarch Shenouda III, as the voice of the Christian minority in the country.

Patriarch Naguib, however, said that Catholics “have confidence” in Patriarch Shenouda’s “wisdom.”

He added that the Orthodox and Catholic communities and their leaders for the most part operate independently.

In the current crisis, he said, “there has not been any communication between us,” although the two patriarchs have separately supported initiatives calling for prayer and protections for protesters and Church buildings and other properties.

Patriarch Naguib has been a vocal supporter of interfaith relations and cooperation in the North African nation. In a mid-January message to the Catholics of Egypt, he urged them to be active in creating "national brotherhood," to lead cooperative efforts to build up the nation.

On Feb. 4, he made a public declaration imploring peace among citizens and "light and wisdom" from government officials.

It is time for the people to return their homes and jobs and "recuperate what has been lost in these days," he said.

He added that the Church has been impressed by the caliber of the young people who led the protests.

“We are proud of the young people who have been able to organize themselves, through modern means of communication, to express the just demands and expectations of the population, in a peaceful and educated way.”

What is needed now, he said, is “the return of peace and order, then the normal resumption of life and work.”

He hoped that in the months to come there will be gradual improvements and steps toward meeting the protesters' demands for political reform and improvements to resolve the economic burdens faced by Egyptians.

Catholics, he added, along with other citizens in the country, are living “these days with much anxiety, but not without pride and hope.”

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Pope's secretary puts papal organ donation discussion to rest

Vatican City, Feb 5, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Though he promotes organ donation, the Pope's own organs were officially rendered unavailable for further use when he was elected to the papacy, according to his secretary.

Msgr. Georg Gaenswein, Pope Benedict XVI's personal secretary, silenced debate in Germany over whether the Pope was still a card-holding organ donor.

Gloria TV produced a copy of a letter from the secretary to a German doctor clarifying the Pope's donating status. Dr. Gero Winkelmann had reportedly attempted to lend credibility to the idea of organ donation in lectures and articles by saying that the Pope himself had a donor card.

Before his election as the successor to John Paul II, the Pope had been a potential donor since the 1970s, explained Msgr. Gaenswein in the Feb. 5 message. But, he wrote, the donation card was rendered "obsolete" when Benedict XVI was elected Pope.

The Vatican's "health minister," Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, told Italy's La Repubblica newspaper that the Pope's body must remain intact "because it belongs to and for the Church, in body and soul."

He added that this "takes nothing from the validity and the beauty of the gift of organ donation."

Although any claim on Benedict XVI's organs at this point is not recognized, his teaching on the matter stands. Even as Pope, he has spoken about the need for organ donors and the beauty of donating.

He spoke about its importance in a Nov. 2008 address to participants in a congress on transplants sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life. On that occasion, he called organ donation an "act of love ... that remains as a genuine witness of charity which knows how to look beyond death so that life always wins."

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