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 May 24, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

ABOVE: Praying for peace in Iraq
An Iraqi Christian prays in front of a gypsum statue of Jesus in the town of Qaraqush in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh, May 10. Iraqi Christians, who number about 750,000 in the predominantly Muslim nation of 3 million, are caught in the crossfire of sectarian strife and feuds over land and oil fields in the north.
RIGHT: Murder of Iraqi Christian
Residents mourn Iraqi Christian student Sandy Shabib during funeral services in Mosul, Iraq, May 11. The 19-year-old biology student died from head wounds she sustained in a bus attack May 2. Bombers that day struck three buses carrying Christian university students on their way to classes.

Diocese sells real estate to settle abuse lawsuits
BURLINGTON, Vt. (CNS) — The Diocese of Burlington has settled 26 lawsuits involving clergy sex abuse for nearly $18 million and put its administration building and a former Catholic summer camp on the real estate market to help cover the cost.

Bishop Salvatore R. Matano of Burlington, whose diocese covers the entire state, announced the settlements in a May 13 letter to Vermont Catholics.

In addition to the 26 cases settled for $17.65 million, the diocese also settled three cases that had been appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court. Juries had awarded $15 million to the victims in those cases, but the settlement amounts — kept confidential at the request of the plaintiffs — were “much more modest than the jury awards,” the bishop said.

The diocese’s unrestricted reserves “have been depleted to satisfy the financial costs of these settlements,” he said.

Pro-life movement grows in Canada

OTTAWA (CNS) — With an estimated 12,500 people gathered on Parliament Hill, Canada’s largest ever March for Life May 13 gave a boost to what observers consider to be growing momentum within the country’s pro-life movement.

The crowd celebrated the recent defeat in the Canadian Parliament of legislation that would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide. Those gathered also were pleased by a recent parliament vote to exclude abortion in a Canadian-led maternal and child health initiative among the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations.

Dutch bishops OK inquiry into clerical sex abuse

UTRECHT, Netherlands (CNS) — The Dutch bishops’ conference and the conference of Dutch religious have approved a “broad external and independent inquiry” into cases of clerical sexual abuse and how they were handled by the Church. The two conferences issued a joint press statement May 11 saying the number of abuse cases reported to a Church-sponsored victims’ assistance office since February “necessitates a thorough investigation.”

Since February, more than 1,500 people have contacted the victims’ assistance hotline and more than 50 formal complaints have been filed; the bishops and religious urged “victims who have not yet reported” to contact the police and-or the hotline.

Late-term abortion plan dropped in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. (CNS) — Despite news that the plans were dropped for the Madison Surgery Center to begin offering late-term abortions, questions remain after a statement from UW Health May 5 said the organization is still committed to including late-term abortions among its reproductive health services.

Pro-life groups, however, hope the decision not to perform abortions at the Madison Surgery Center indicates that the second-trimester abortion services would not be offered in Madison. In February 2009, the surgery center’s board voted unanimously to approve a plan to begin second-trimester abortions at the location on South Park Street in Madison.

Prelate discouraged by reluctance on renewal

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) — The lack of willingness in the Catholic Church to begin “a painful process of renewal” in the wake of the clerical abuse scandals has left Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin “disheartened and discouraged.”

In a talk to the Knights of St. Colum-banus on the future of the Church in Ireland, the archbishop said the most obvious source of his discouragement was “the drip-by-drip, never-ending revelation about child abuse and the disastrous way it was handled. There are still strong forces which would prefer that the truth did not emerge,” he said.

“There are signs of subconscious denial on the part of many about the extent of the abuse which occurred within the Church and how it was covered up,” he said. “There are other signs of rejection of a sense of responsibility for what had happened. There are worrying signs that despite solid regulations and norms these are not being followed with the rigor required.”

Colombian diocese adds protection after threats

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) — A Catholic diocese has continued its human rights work but increased its police protection after recent threats. Some of the threats were sent to the social action ministry of the Diocese of Tumaco, a city on Colombia’s thinly populated Pacific Coast. The area is roamed by drug traffickers, guerrilla groups and right-wing death squads.

Bishop Gustavo Giron Higuita of Tumaco reported that this is about the sixth time that right-wing groups have demanded the diocese cease work on human rights issues. Other Tumaco human rights organizations also received the threats.

Faith-based investors push for transparency

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As Congress debates legislation to restrict the activities of financial traders, a group of faith-based institutional investors is pressuring four of the nation’s largest banks to become more transparent in the way they transact investment deals.

The investors, under the banner of the New York-based Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, have introduced shareholder resolutions that call upon the banks to act more openly and with clarity in the trading of financial products known as derivatives.

Resolutions offered during recent shareholder meetings at Citigroup and Bank of America met with unprecedented success. A Citigroup resolution April 20 captured 30 percent of the vote; a similar measure at Bank of America April 27 garnered 39 percent of shareholder votes. Traditionally, shareholder resolutions receive single-digit support the first time they are offered.

ICCR representatives say transparency in derivative trading is necessary to prevent another economic meltdown and a deepening of the current recession.

Poll shows ‘dramatic’ loss of confidence in pope

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholics’ approval ratings of Pope Benedict XVI’s job performance while in office dropped 15 points over the past two years, according to a new poll conducted by Zogby Interactive and commissioned by the National Catholic Reporter weekly newspaper.

The numbers slid from 71 percent in April 2008, as the pope made his first pastoral visit to the United States as pontiff, to 56 percent in April 2010, as Pope Benedict and the Vatican came under increased media scrutiny over past handling of clerical sexual abuse cases.

Approval ratings for the U.S. Catholic bishops fell even more than that of the pope, from 62 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2010. Sixty-two percent of Catholics polled said Pope Benedict had done a poor or fair job of handing the clergy sexual abuse problem, compared with 38 percent who said his handling was good or excellent.

Nuns’ new campaign targets human trafficking

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — An international network of women’s religious orders has launched a worldwide awareness campaign aimed at preventing human trafficking during the June 11-July 11 World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa.

The campaign, “2010 Should Be About the Game,” has been targeting fans, religious leaders, potential victims of trafficking and the general public — warning them about the risks and urging them to spread the word. Using the 2010 World Cup to exploit vulnerable women, children and men for slave labor, the sex industry or the drug trade is “an outright perversion of the spirit and ethical dimension of sport as well as of the idea and dignity of the human person,” said Salesian Sister Bernadette Sangma.

Sister Sangma coordinates the anti-trafficking project of the International Union of Superiors General. A similar anti-trafficking campaign coordinated by the superiors general and the International Organization for Migration was highly successful during the 2006 World Cup in Germany.


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