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 November 7, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 19Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Earthquake anniversary
People walk under the ruins of Convento do Carmo Church in Lisbon after a ceremony marking the 250th anniversary of an earthquake that struck Lisbon, Nov. 1, 1755. The quake caused Paris church bells to ring and triggered a tsunami from Norway to North America. Today the skeleton of the Convento do Carmo, where hundreds of victims died, still haunts the Lisbon skyline.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Jose Manuel Ribeiro

Murdered priest
Father Luis Velazquez, 51, was found murdered in Tijuana, Oct. 24, with his hands handcuffed behind his back and with six bullet wounds to the head and neck. The Mexican priest had been working in a crime-racked neighborhood of Tijuana.


Confronting AIDS
Peer counsellor Ndeye Astou Mbaye, 20, poses for a portrait during a community-run AIDS awareness workshop for teenage girls and women in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, Oct. 24. Up to four million of the world’s 12 million AIDS orphans live in West and Central Africa and 85 percent of children suffering from AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, one child dies every minute because of AIDS.


Judge finds decades of sex abuse in Ireland
DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) – Former bishops, police and state agencies did far too little to prevent the alleged sexual abuse of more than 100 children by Catholic priests in southeast Ireland over a 36-year period, a report published Oct. 25 charged.

The two and one-half year probe, led by retired Irish Supreme Court Judge Frank Murphy, found that two former bishops protected – and helped to promote – abusers within the clergy. The report also found that Ireland’s national police force rarely investigated complaints of abuse properly – and kept no records of any such cases before 1988.

In addition, it said officials at government-appointed health boards sometimes failed to act on reports of abuse.

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, whose archdiocese faces its own fact-finding probe into how Catholic leaders mishandled more than 100 abuse cases, said the Church accepted Murphy’s findings, which he called “horrific.”

“Many people would not have suffered abuse had the people with knowledge about it acted in a timely matter,” he said. “It’s only when the whole truth about this comes out that we’ll be able to pick up the pieces.”

Teacher dismissed for abortion-related activity
SACRAMENTO — Officials at Loretto High School in Sacramento fired a drama teacher in mid-October after they were presented with evidence that she had recently been volunteering as an escort at a local Planned Parenthood clinic.

Marie Bain, who had taught at the all-female high school since August, was dismissed after a parent complained to school officials, presenting photos of Bain earlier this year escorting clients into the clinic in Sacramento.

After school officials consulted the diocese’s schools department and Bishop William K. Weigand regarding the complaint, the bishop sent a letter to Loretto Sister Helen Timothy, president of the high school.

The letter restated the longstanding diocesan policy regarding the disqualification of persons participating in abortion-related activities from teaching in Catholic schools.

House bill denies funds to non-profits
WASHINGTON (RNS) – The U.S. House has approved a measure that would deny new federal housing funds to any non-profit group – including churches – that have engaged in voter registration or get-out-the-vote activities in the previous 12 months..

The Republican-backed provision, attached to the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act, also prohibits any voter activity after a grant has been awarded.

The bill also denies funding to organizations who don’t list housing as their “primary purpose.” Catholic Charities USA, for example, said that it would make most churches ineligible because housing is only a portion of their ministries.

Vatican asks Russia for diplomatic ties
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – The Vatican’s foreign minister has called for Russia to establish full diplomatic ties with the Holy See, a step that could further strain relations between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church.

“I think both the parties should work to progress onto full diplomatic relations,” Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo told the Catholic newspaper Svet Evangelja.

The Vatican and Moscow established “relations of a special nature” in 1990, allowing the Holy See to send a Vatican diplomat to Moscow. Russia maintains an embassy in Rome, Italy, that has informal relations with the Vatican.

Judge says Vatican lacks status to limit questions
PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) – A federal bankruptcy judge has ruled that the Holy See has no standing to seek to limit questioning of Archbishop William Levada to his knowledge of child abuse allegations within the Portland archdiocese during his tenure as archbishop from 1986 to 1995. Judge Elizabeth Perris is presiding over the Portland Archdiocese bankruptcy proceedings in the face of hundreds of millions of dollars in sex abuse lawsuits.

Archbishop Levada, most recently the archbishop of San Francisco, is the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. He was scheduled to give sworn testimony in August, but won a five-month extension when he agreed to return to the United States in January. Portland archdiocesan attorneys have objected to any questions that go beyond actions he took during his tenure in Oregon.

School tells students to remove blogs
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta has ordered its students to remove personal blogs from the Internet in the name of protecting them from cyberpredators.
Students appear to be heeding the directive to remove personal postings about the school or themselves from Web sites like myspace.com or xanga.com, even if they were posted from the students’ home computers.

Officials with the Diocese of Paterson say the directive is a matter of safety, not censorship. But constitutional experts say the case raises interesting questions about the intersection of free speech and voluntary agreements with private institutions.

Church officials say Miers was never a Catholic
DALLAS (RNS) – Catholic officials in Dallas say they have no record of former Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers ever being Catholic, despite reports that she was raised in that church before attending an evangelical Christian church.

Catholic News Service reported that church officials examined “all known sacramental records,” including baptism certificates, and found no evidence that Miers, who withdrew her nomination to the Supreme Court Oct. 26, was ever a Catholic.

“The Diocese of Dallas has no record of Harriet Miers or her immediate family ever having been a member of the Catholic Church,” church spokesman Bronson Havard told CNS.
Much had been made of Miers’ evangelical faith, including her apparent born-again experience in the late 1970s and membership at Valley View Christian Church. Critics accused the Bush administration of focusing too heavily on Miers’ religion.

Pope Benedict XVI canonizes his first saints
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – In the first canonization Mass of his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI has added five men to the Catholic canon of saints on Oct. 24.

They are Josef Bliczewski, archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine; Father Zygmunt Gorazdowski, founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph, an order devoted to care for the sick and poor; Jesuit Father Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga of Chile for his charity work with the poor; Capuchin Friar Felice da Nicosia, admired for his asceticism; and Father Gaetano Cantanoso, who founded the Veronican Sisters of the Holy Face in 1934.

Religious schools can get FEMA aid
WASHINGTON (RNS) – Religious schools and faith-based community service organizations that suffered damage during the recent hurricanes are eligible to receive federal disaster grants
The Archdiocese of New Orleans suffered significant damage to its schools and will be eligible for FEMA grants. It has exhausted private insurance and sought low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. Other faith-based organizations, including those providing assisted living and critical health care, will also be eligible.


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