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 March 21, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 6Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Mourning 26 children
Filipino villagers carry coffins containing the bodies of some of the 26 children who died, March 9, of food poisoning in San Jose on Bohol island. A Catholic priest blessed the victims’ bodies before the mass burial. Close to 80 people were hospitalized after eating the fried cassava balls which authorities believe is the cause of the children’s deaths.


Child laborers
Two homeless girls carry sacks as they wait to cross a road in the northeastern Indian city of Siliguri. According to estimates, several hundred thousand children work as labourers and beg on the streets in India. Some 260 million of India’s billion-plus people live on less than $1 a day.

RNS PHOTO/ REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

Sunday collections used to pay abuse claims
BELFAST (RNS) – Irish Bishop Seamus Hegarty has apologized to the Diocese of Derryhis diocese for dipping into Sunday collections to help pay for sex abuse claims.

The diocese had taken three percent of the collections for a fund set up by the Irish bishops to pay compensation to victims of sex abuse and to set up and run a Child Protection Office.

“For that I apologize,” said Bishop Hegarty, referring to the fact that churchgoers were not fully informed. “You have a right to know where your money goes. Furthermore, I am sorry for giving the impression of presuming on your generosity and consent.”

The bishop promised to return the collected money to the parishes. In the United States, most dioceses have relied on insurance to cover abuse settlements, although some have sold property to help foot the bill.

Poll shows growing opposition to abortion
WASHINGTON – Cathy Cleaver Ruse, director of planning and information for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomed a Harris Interactive Poll on abortion released March 3 that shows the strongest opposition to Roe v. Wade in years.

According to the survey of 1,012 U.S. adults, conducted Feb. 8 – 13, American support of Roe v. Wade at a 52 to 47 percent margin. In 1998 a similar poll indicated that opposition at a 57 to 41 percent margin. “Roe v. Wade created an unlimited right to abortion, and most people think an unlimited right to abortion is wrong,” Ruse said.

AmeriCorps can work in religious schools
WASHINGTON (RNS) – Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, hailed an appeals court decision that allows federal AmeriCorps teachers to continue to work in religious schools.

In a unanimous decision March 8, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the program’s inclusion of grants for individuals teaching at religious schools is constitutional, overturning a district court ruling.

Churches call off Taco Bell boycott
MIAMI (RNS) – Churches that endorsed a boycott against Taco Bell declared victory after the fast-food giant agreed to a penny-per-pound increase in wages to migrant tomato pickers in Florida.
The United Church of Christ was the first church to endorse the boycott. The United Methodist Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Presbyterian Church (USA) and the National Council of Churches also joined the boycott.

“We recognize that Florida tomato workers do not enjoy the same rights and conditions as employees in other industries, and there is a need for reform,” said Emil Brolick, president of Taco Bell. Tomato pickers earn about 40 cents for each 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick, according to The Washington Post, and must pick 2 tons of tomatoes to earn $50.

Christians help down bankruptcy amendment
WASHINGTON (RNS) – Christian groups are cheering the Senate’s rejection of a proposal that would have prevented abortion protesters from using bankruptcy protection to avoid paying court-ordered fines for coming too close to clinics.

The Senate voted 53-46 March 8 to kill New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer’s amendment to a bankruptcy reform bill sponsored by Republicans. The amendment drew widespread attention because anti-abortion groups said it discriminated against them. When ordered by a judge to pay huge fines to abortion clinics, some protesters have avoided paying by declaring bankruptcy.

Peace churches concerned about ‘back door’ draft
CHICAGO (RNS) – A coalition of historic “peace churches” says they were told that the Pentagon does not plan to reinstate a military draft, but they remain concerned about a “back door draft” that targets recruitment of the poor and minorities.

Leaders of a dozen Mennonite, Quaker and Brethren churches that shun military service held a two-day meeting March 4-5 to plan for “alternative service” programs for conscientious objectors should a draft be reinstated.

The meeting was prompted by an unannounced visit last October by a draft official to a Church of the Brethren facility in Maryland. Several churches were concerned the impromptu visit signaled that a draft may be imminent.

Catholic agency questions ‘anti-poverty agenda’
WASHINGTON (RNS) – Senate Republicans attempted March 2 to jump-start an “anti-poverty agenda” on Capitol Hill, but Catholic Charities USA is urging caution on welfare reform and budget cuts.
Four senators unveiled a 12-point plan that would boost charitable giving, encourage low-income savings, expand tax credits and add mentors for the children of prison inmates.

While applauding some elements of the package as “a good first step,” Catholic Charities USA said Congress must also protect social service programs from cutbacks in President Bush’s recent budget and raise the minimum wage.

France adopts clause for religious education
PARIS (RNS) – France’s National Assembly has passed an education bill that includes a clause calling for religion and its history to be taught in French public schools.

The bill still must be examined by the French Senate before becoming law. The religious education measure appears surprising in a country that last year banned public school students from wearing head scarves, crosses and other conspicuous religious symbols to class.

Nun goes to prison for role in protest
DANBURY, Conn. (RNS) – Maryknoll Sister Lelia Mattingly began serving a six-month sentence this month for trespassing at the former School of the Americas in November. She said her imprisonment follows Jesus’ way, “to speak the truth to power and pay the consequences.”

The 63-year-old nun was arrested during the annual protest against the Georgia base’s military school that trained more than 57,000 Latin American soldiers, including some later charged with human rights violations. She had tried to plant a cross inscribed with the names of four U.S. churchwomen, whom she knew, who were raped and killed by security forces in El Salvador in 1980. The men had been trained at the U.S. military school.


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