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Archive of July 13, 2011

Lefebvrist bishop who denied gravity of Holocaust ordered to pay fine

Berlin, Germany, Jul 13, 2011 (CNA) - A German appeals court has levied a fine of nearly $9,000 against Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X for public statements denying the gravity of the Holocaust.

During an interview in 2008, Williamson said, “Historical evidence massively contradicts the theory that 6 million Jews died” in the Nazi concentration camps. He was subsequently fined $14,000 by a German court, but the July 11 order reduced it to just over $9,000. 

The interview was re-broadcast in January of 2009, just as Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication against four Lefebvrist bishops, including Williamson. Analysts saw it as an obvious attempt to smear the Pope for his decision to lift the canonical penalty imposed on the bishops.

The other three bishops include the current leader of the Society of St. Pius X Bernard Fellay, Tissier de Mallerais and Alfonso de Galarreta.

The decision by Pope Benedict opened the door for talks with the Holy See, which demanded that the society accept the Second Vatican Council and the teachings of all the Popes since Pius XII as conditions for reunion with the Church.

In a statement issued on Feb. 4, 2009, the Holy See explained that the Society of St. Pius X “does not enjoy any canonical recognition by the Catholic Church. The four bishops, even though they have been released from excommunication, have no canonical function in the Church and do not licitly exercise any ministry within it.”

“The positions of Bishop Williamson with regard to the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself remarked on 28 January 2009,” during the general audience of that day, the statement indicated.

“In order to be admitted to function as a bishop within the Church,” the Holy See said, “Bishop Williamson must also distance himself in an absolutely unequivocal and public way from his positions regarding the Shoah, which were unknown to the Holy Father at the time of the remission of the excommunication.”

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Illinois judge blocks state's attempt to end Catholic Charities foster care

Springfield, Ill., Jul 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

An Illinois judge's July 12 order will allow Catholic Charities to continue its foster care work in three dioceses, despite an attempt by state officials and the governor to end the partnership.

“This is a great win for the 2,000 children under the care of Catholic Charities, protecting these kids from the grave disruption that the state's reckless decision to terminate would have caused,” said Peter Breen, Executive Director and Legal Counsel at the Thomas More Society.

Breen said that Catholic Charities, with the legal assistance of his organization, “will continue this fight” to continue “the high-quality foster and adoption care that the Catholic Church has provided for over a century to Illinois children.”

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, one of the dioceses that sought the injunction, said he was “encouraged by the judge's recognition today of the grave harm that would result” from forcing Catholic Charities out of foster care.

“We continue to believe we can adhere to our religious principles and operate within Illinois law,” Bishop Jenky said. “Our focus has always been on living the Gospel mission by serving and protecting vulnerable children throughout our communities, and we will continue our faithful mission building a future filled with hope.”

Illinois' Department of Children and Family Services had stated in a July 8 letter that it was ending its relationship with Catholic Charities in three dioceses, over the Church ministries' alleged refusal to comply with the recently-passed Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.

The three branches of Catholic Charities have maintained they are following the law, even as they continue their practice of placing foster children only with married couples and non-cohabiting single persons.

Breen told CNA on July 11 that the state was dropping Catholic Charities on illegitimate grounds, and attempting an “end-run” around Catholic Charities' lawsuit against the state over the same issue.

At Tuesday's afternoon hearing, Judge John Schmidt expressed a similar sentiment, saying the Department of Children and Family Services' termination letter had the “appearance of gamesmanship.”

Schmidt also rejected Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's attempt to have Catholic Charities' complaint dismissed on the grounds of “mootness.” Madigan attempted to argue that the present position of both parties would make any judicial decision in the matter irrelevant.

The judge, however, disagreed, and will decide on the merits of the case in a hearing on August 17.

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Cloyne Report says not all alleged abuse was reported to police

Dublin, Ireland, Jul 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

A judicial inquiry into how the Diocese of Cloyne in Ireland mishandled alleged incidents of clerical sex abuse since 1996 severely criticizes the diocese for not reporting all cases to the authorities.
 
The Commission of Investigation Report into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne - published July 13 - identified nine cases between 1996 and 2005 which “very clearly” should have been reported by the authorities but were not. Six other cases were forwarded to the police. This was the “greatest failure” of the diocese, says the report.
 
“The findings of this report confirm that grave errors of judgment were made and serious failures of leadership occurred,” said Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, the Primate of Ireland, in a July 13 statement.

“This is deplorable and totally unacceptable,” he said, describing today as another “dark day in the history of the response of church leaders to the cry of children abused by church personnel.”

The commission – led by Judge Yvonne Murphy - looked at complaints made against 19 priests between 1996 and 2009. All but two came from people who are now adults. The report expresses alarm that the two cases involving minors went unreported to police.

The report also criticizes Bishop John Magee of Cloyne for taking little interest in the issue of child protection. “Bishop Magee had, to a certain extent, detached himself from the day to day management of child sexual abuse cases,” it says.

Bishop Magee resigned in 2010 due to continuing criticism of his handling of abuse allegations.
 
“This report confirms that a toxic culture of clericalism has almost destroyed the Church in Ireland and badly damaged it elsewhere - basically priests put the welfare of priests ahead of the welfare of alleged victims,”said David Quinn, the director of the Dublin-based Iona Institute, in remarks to CNA July 13.
 
The Iona Institute works to promote the place of religious freedom and marriage in society.

The Murphy Commission looked specifically at cases from 1996 onwards since that was the when the Catholic Church in Ireland introduced its first ever “framework document” for dealing with allegations of clerical abuse.

“Basically today’s report says that Bishop Magee handed over all responsibility for the issue to his Vicar General, Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan, who didn’t like the framework document,” Quinn said.
 
“He saw it as ‘too led by rules’ and ‘not pastoral enough’ towards accused priests. So allegations were not passed to the police.”

Today’s report also suggests that those who wanted to downgrade the importance of the 1996 guidelines cited the decision by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops to brand them as “not an official document.” The effect of this, says the report, was “to strengthen the position of those who dissented from the officially stated Irish Church policy.”

Archbishop Emly Dermot Clifford, the current Apostolic Administrator of the Cloyne diocese, said in a July 13 statement that he was shocked by the report's findings. “It appalls me that, up to 2008, 13 years after these procedures were put in place, they were still not being implemented in the Diocese of Cloyne.”
 
The Murphy Inquiry was established by the Irish government in January 2009. Its creation was triggered by a report from the body responsible for child protection in the Catholic Church. The National Board for Safeguarding Children found child protection practices in Cloyne to be “inadequate and in some respects dangerous.” The National Board is now conducting an audit of all dioceses across Ireland.
 
“Overall this report will cause further disillusionment and anger amongst Irish Catholics,” Quinn predicted.
 
“And it will completely overshadow the fact that the vast majority of these accusations happened in the 1970s and 80s. In fact, none happened after the year 2000.”

The Cloyne case has made headlines around the world, not least because 74-year-old Bishop Magee was previously a private secretary for Popes Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II.
 
The report said Bishop Magee told the Irish government he was reporting all abuse allegations to authorities.
 
“I am sorry that this happened and I unreservedly apologize to all those who suffered additional hurt because of the flawed implementation of the Church procedures, for which I take full responsibility,” said Bishop Magee in a July 13 statement published on the Diocese of Cloyne’s website.
 
“I can only hope that the detailed work of the Commission and the National Board can now provide the new beginning that we all had hoped for in 1996.”

In response to the report, the Diocese of Cloyne announced a series of training and reporting steps at both the diocesan and parish levels, some of which are already in place.

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Rupert Murdoch's papal knighthood questioned as investigation continues

London, England, Jul 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

There are calls from all sides in British politics for Rupert Murdoch to hand back – or be stripped of – his papal knighthood if he is found culpable in any way for the recent phone hacking scandal involving his British tabloid newspaper, The News of the World.
 
“I think we need to see the extent of what happened and who knew what and when before we rush to judgment. But if it transpires that Rupert Murdoch was aware of these goings on then, yes, he ought to hand the papal knighthood back,” said former Conservative government minister and Catholic convert Ann Widdecombe on July 13.

Rupert Murdoch was made a Knight Commander of St. Gregory in 1998. Although not a Catholic, he had apparently been recommended for the honor by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles after giving money to a Church education fund. A year later he also donated $10 million to help build Los Angeles’ new Catholic cathedral.
 
“Like most of us in 1998, the Holy Father would not have been aware of the terrible depths Mr. Murdoch’s media empire would go to for profit,” said Jim McGovern, Labour M.P. for Dundee West and treasurer of the All-Party Group on the Holy See.
 
“However, if these allegations are proven to be true then either Mr. Murdoch should return his Knighthood, or the Holy See should look to have it removed from him,” McGovern said on July 13.
 
Murdoch’s U.K. newspaper group – News International – stands accused of illegally hacking the phones of thousands of people, including celebrities, royals and families of crime victims to garner stories. The groups is also alleged to have bribed serving police officers for information.

Today saw the U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron set up a judge-led inquiry to investigate the claims. A police investigation is already underway.

In response, Murdoch has closed down the News of the World and withdrawn a bid to buy U.K. satellite television station BSkyB. His company has also admitted that illegal hacking was used by journalists within the company. Two have already served time in prison for other crimes.

"We have to let both the police and judicial investigation do their job but if Rupert Murdoch is found personally responsible in any way for these crimes then, yes, he should hand back his papal knighthood. That’s subject, of course, to Vatican protocol allowing such a thing to happen,” said Catholic parliamentarian Angus Brendan MacNeil, the Scottish Nationalist M.P. for the Western Isles.

Striking a more cautionary note on the whole issue, though, was his fellow Catholic politician Lord David Alton, a former Liberal Democrat M.P. who now sits as an independent in the House of Lords.

“Papal knighthoods are not awarded as a sign of holiness or a reward for sanctity – but a recognition of active generosity to the Church and her works. Mr. Murdoch was given his, in 1998, after making a generous charitable donation. That has nothing to do with the current controversy surrounding some of his newspapers,” Lord Alton said.

“Let’s see what the official inquiry makes of those unacceptable journalistic practices, and where the law has been broken no doubt the individuals concerned will be prosecuted.”

“No-one has suggested that Mr. Murdoch was personally involved in criminal activity. Some of the self righteous indignation and lynch mob mentality that is now baying for Mr. Murdoch’s blood only adds to the whole unedifying mess,” Lord Alton commented.

Ann Widdecombe, however, says the whole affair should now make the Catholic Church reflect on the papal honors system.
 
“These knighthoods are dished out right, left and center by the Church to the likes of big tycoons and statesmen. I believe, however, they should be reserved for those who’ve worked hard in the cause of the Church - those whose efforts often go unsung.”

Jim McGovern struck a similar note stressing that “a knighthood is a tremendous privilege that should be reserved for the most deserving,” adding that “it should not be in the possession of those who fall far short of the behavior expected by the Church.”

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Ohio bishop endorses anti-cancer alternatives to Komen Foundation fundraising

Toledo, Ohio, Jul 13, 2011 (CNA) - “Misgivings” about the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s association with Planned Parenthood and its “openness” to embryonic stem cell research were behind the Ohio Catholic bishops’ decision to direct fundraising efforts elsewhere, the Diocese of Toledo said.

“In order to avoid even the possibility of cooperation in morally unacceptable activities, the other bishops and I believe that it would be wise to find alternatives to Komen for Catholic fundraising efforts,” Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo said in a July 5 letter.

There are “moral questions” about the research the Komen Foundation funds, including a policy that does not exclude funding for embryonic stem cell research. They are also contributors to Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the U.S., the bishop said.

Present medical research is sometimes “marred by the erroneous belief that research is not bound by moral norms rooted in faith and reason, as reflected in the teaching of the Church,” Bishop Blair said.

He directed fundraising carried out under Catholic auspices, including in Catholic schools, to be channeled elsewhere.

Mary Westphal, executive director of the Northwest Ohio Affiliate Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and board chairman Angie Ash said they were “extremely disappointed” in the bishop’s decision. They said the bishop and other diocesan leaders had not called or met with local Komen officials before the decision’s announcement and gave no opportunity to discuss his concerns, the Toledo Blade reports.

The Diocese of Toledo issued a July 12 clarification which said that individual Catholics may continue to contribute to Komen locally on the basis of its assurance that no local funds go to Planned Parenthood or to embryonic stem cell research.

The diocese said Bishop Blair’s letter was not a “condemnation” or a “ban” on the Komen Foundation.

Bishop Blair said fundraising should go to the locally-known Mercy Cancer Centers, which help local women without financial means to receive treatment, detection and support for breast cancer.

“We can be assured that at Mercy, these women will receive a high level of compassionate care that respects their human dignity,” he said.

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Abortion in Britain discriminates against disabled, new numbers say

London, England, Jul 13, 2011 (CNA) -

After a long legal battle, abortion statistics released by the British government show a “shocking level of discrimination” against the disabled, pro-life groups said.

“Between 2001 and 2010, the number of abortions on the ground of disability rose by one-third, 10 times that of abortions generally. It is clear that legal abortion is a system which discriminates, fatally, against the disabled,” commented Anthony Ozimic, the communications manager of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

The British Department of Health has released the numbers, gestational ages and types of disabilities of babies aborted between 2002 and 2010. In 2010, 482 babies with Down’s syndrome were aborted.

Sixty-six of the late abortions in 2010 were linked to nervous system problems such as spina bifida. No late-term abortions were carried out for cleft lip and palate, but seven were carried out before the legal limit of 24 weeks for this reason, the BBC reports.

Another 29 late abortions were carried out for chromosomal problems, including 10 for Down’s syndrome and 10 for Edward’s syndrome.

The ProLife Alliance characterized the effort to release the statistics as a “David and Goliath legal battle.” Its freedom of information request in February 2005 took six years to fulfill.

The alliance said that it is opposed to all abortion, but it added that the termination of babies who could survive outside the womb is “always particularly horrifying.”

“We have always argued that if these abortions are permitted under law, there should be no attempt whatsoever to hide details of the numbers or justifications,” the organization said July 4.

“(T)his is a great victory for transparency and freedom of speech and we are delighted that full information about the justification for late abortions is now being made available in the same detail as it was in 2001,” said Julia Millington, spokeswoman for the ProLife Alliance.

Her organization thanked former MP Ann Widdecombe and Prof. Stuart Campbell, who gave expert evidence in court on the organization’s behalf.

Until 2003 the British Department of Health published statistics on all late abortions. Its 2002 figures sparked an outcry when they showed one abortion targeted a baby with a cleft lip and palate, an easily reparable problem.

Pro-life groups said the rules were being flouted to weed out “less than perfect babies.” Anglican cleric Rev. Joanna Jepson, who was born with a jaw deformity, filed a complaint which resulted in a police investigation into whether the abortion was illegal.

Abortion on “social” grounds is legal only in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. The 1967 Abortion Act, which applies to Scotland and England and Wales, makes it legal to abort an unborn child up to birth if there is a substantial risk of “serious” physical or mental abnormality.

One of the doctors involved in the 2002 cleft palate abortion was identified by journalists in 2004 using public information, causing concerns that the identity of the patient could also be revealed.

The Health Department in 2003 decided no longer to reveal detailed information on late abortions where procedures involving certain medical conditions numbered less than 10.

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Argentineans hold massive pro-life march outside capitol building

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 13, 2011 (CNA) - Numerous pro-life organizations in Argentina are holding a rally outside the nation’s capitol building to protest a bill that would legalize abortion in the country.

According to the AICA news agency, the Consortium of Catholic Doctors said the purpose of the July 13 rally is “to convey our position on abortion while the hearing is taking place since, given that the majority of lawmakers on the committee have signed on to the abortion measure, we cannot enter the building.”

The rally comes as the Argentinean Congress welcomes the president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the U.N. Relator for Argentina, Luz Patricia Mejia. Mejia is an outspoken proponent of sexual and reproductive health and an abortion rights advocate.

Mejia has been invited to address the Committee on Criminal Legislation of the Argentinean Congress, which is considering a bill that would legalize abortion in the country.

The measure, which so far has the support of more than 50 congressional leaders, would allow girls ages 14 and older to obtain abortion without parental consent. It would permit federal funds to be used for abortions and would allow the procedure on demand up until the third month or pregnancy.

The bill would also limit the right of health care workers to conscientious objection.

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