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October 21, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 18   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

in The Philippines

The collapsed facade of Holy Trinity Church is seen in ruins after an earthquake struck Bohol, Philippines,
Oct. 15.
CNS photo/Reuters
Documentary on women religious
Benedictine nuns are pictured in 1900 before the completion of St. Anthony's Hospital in Bemidji, Minn. The image appears in a documentary titled "Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America" and airing on NBC as part of its "Horizons of the Spirit" series. The film, which can be broadcast by local affiliates until March 15, 2014, chronicles the 300-year contribution
of U.S. women religious.
CNS photo
/courtesy Benedictines of Duluth

California bishops hail veto of bill extending statute of limitations

SACRAMENTO — The president of the California Catholic Conference hailed Gov. Jerry Brown's veto of a bill that would have reopened the statute of limitations against private employers for child sex abuse cases for a one-year period — but also would have banned lawsuits against public schools and other government agencies, as well as against those found guilty of perpetrating the abuse.

"It was unfair to the vast majority of victims and unfair to all private and nonprofit organizations," said an Oct. 11 statement by Auxiliary Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson of Los Angeles.

California lawmakers in 2002 — when the U.S. clergy sex abuse scandal reached its peak —passed a similar law removing the statute of limitations for one year and added as a new subcategory of defendant employers who either knew, or should have known, of the abuse yet failed to take action. But in 2007, the California Supreme Court ruled that public employers were not subject to its provisions.

A 2008 law enacted in California subjected public employers to some, but not all, of the provisions of the 2002 law.

Bishop Wilkerson said the discrimination of victims in S.B. 131 "clearly played a major role" in the veto but he said he hoped that the way Catholic leaders in California have "responded over the last 10 years" to the abuse scandal and have "walked the walk" in the protection of young people and the reporting of allegations to police also "helped play a role" in Brown's action.

"The church's reaction has gone way beyond settling more than 1,000 cases and paying $1.2 billion in settlements. It's changed how we operate as a church," Bishop Wilkerson continued.

"Millions of children and tens of thousands of church workers have received 'Safe Environment' training to learn how to keep children safe and spot potential abuse. Hundreds of thousands of workers and volunteers have been fingerprinted and background checked to screen them for red flags in their background," he added.

"We continue to provide counseling to anyone who comes forward and we actively work with law enforcement to report allegations immediately and suspend anybody, clergy or otherwise, suspected of abuse."

The bill Brown vetoed — S.B. 131 — would have allowed some claims of long-past abuse to be brought forward during the one-year window.

In an Oct. 12 message explaining his veto a day earlier to members of the state Senate, Brown lashed out at the disparate treatment of private and public employers in the measure.

"I can't believe the Legislature decided that victims of abuse by a public entity are somehow less deserving than those who suffered abuse by a private entity," Brown said.

"The children assaulted by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State or the teachers at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles are no less worthy because of the nature of the institution they attended."

The bill, Brown said, "does not change the significant inequity that exists between private and public entities."

He added, "What this bill does do is go back to the only group, i.e. private institutions, that have already been subjected to the unusual 'one-year revival period' and makes them, and them alone, subject to suit indefinitely. This extraordinary extension of the statute of limitations, which legislators chose not to apply to public institutions, is simply too open-ended and unfair."

The reason for a statute of limitations, which Brown said reaches back into Roman Empire times, "is one of fairness," he noted. "There comes a time when an individual or organization should be secure in the reasonable expectation that past acts are indeed in the past and not subject to further lawsuits."

Catholics don't go online

WASHINGTON — Most U.S. Catholics are not looking for spirituality online, in fact, half of them are unaware the church even has an online presence, according to researchers at Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The most widely used communication tool in Catholic Church is the parish bulletin, followed by a diocesan newspaper or magazine — in print form — which one in four adult Catholics have read in the past three months, CARA reports.

Narrowing the focus on Catholics who attend Mass each week, CARA said 13 percent of them read Catholic blogs and 17 percent view religious material on YouTube.

These findings and other trends among U.S. Catholics were presented Oct. 10 by CARA's Melissa Cidade, director of pastoral assistance surveys and services, and Mark Gray, director of Catholic polls, to a group of editors in Washington attending a Catholic Press Association/Catholic News Service Liaison Committee meeting.

New laws, more abortions

SACRAMENTO — New California laws allowing non-physicians to perform abortions and repealing some building regulations that govern abortion clinics "dramatically increase the availability of abortion" in the state, said the president of the California Catholic Conference. "We oppose abortion, and until it becomes illegal, we will oppose measures which expand it — especially when it is at the expense of the girls and women undergoing the procedure," said Auxiliary Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson of Los Angeles. On Oct. 9, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure that permits a nurse practitioner, certified nurse-midwife or physician assistant to perform an abortion by aspiration techniques during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Law aids immigrants

LOS ANGELES — A landmark measure granting California driver's licenses to people who are in the country illegally represents an important commitment to immigrants, said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez. The archbishop said he hopes the bill — signed into law Oct. 3 by Gov. Jerry Brown —- will lead the way to comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.

Actions for women

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Attendees at a regional conference of the World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations focused on how Catholic women can take action, locally and globally, on "all forms of poverty" — hunger, domestic violence, human trafficking and the needs of migrants. "We come together to pray and work for a world of peace, a world in which all of our brothers and sisters will live lives of dignity, free from all forms of poverty, with souls filled with the love that our Savior taught us as we follow his command to love our neighbors as ourselves," said Mary Elizabeth Stewart, from the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn.

New generation of leaders

SAN ANTONIO — The Oblate School of Theology's new Sankofa Institute for African American Pastoral Leadership is an opportunity to build a new generation of African-American leaders, a Chicago theologian declared during the institute's inaugural dinner on the school's San Antonio campus. The vast majority of the black community is worse off than it was before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, said the Rev. Dwight Hopkins, professor of theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School and a member of the new institute's Council of Elders. "One of the clearest advancements since the civil rights movement has been the fact that wealthy black families and black professionals have integrated and benefited from the struggles of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. generation, and this is a good thing," he told a group of about 165 people, black and white, Protestant and Catholic. "No one wants social relations in America to be based on racial segregation, but the majority of black poor and working-class families have sunk deeper into the pit of being human in an unhealthy way," he said Sept. 27.

Favorable view of pope

WASHINGTON — A new poll shows that nearly 70 percent of U.S. Catholics agree with comments made by Pope Francis in his recent extensive interview with a Jesuit Italian journal where he stressed that Catholics cannot "insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods." According to the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, support for the pope's remarks was about the same across age groups, sexes and weekly Massgoers and those who attend church less frequently.

Croatian priest beatified

PULA, Croatia — A young priest who was murdered by communist partisans during a wave of anti-church violence in 1947 was beatified as a martyr in Croatia. Father Miroslav Bulesic, 27 at the time of his death, was portrayed as a victim of a hate crime during a time of upheaval in post-World War II Croatia by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes, during the Sept. 28 ceremony.

Clancy supports education

BALTIMORE — Even after Tom Clancy became an international bestselling novelist whose fans included the likes of President Ronald Reagan, the Baltimore-born writer never forgot the role his hometown Catholic education played in giving him the tools to his success. "My Catholic education taught me the value of thinking for myself," Clancy said in a 1990 radio ad promoting Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Clancy, best known for works including "The Hunt for Red October" and "Clear and Present Danger," died Oct. 1 at age 66 after a brief illness at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Court rules no 'Allah'

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A Malaysian court said a Catholic newspaper may not use the word "Allah" to refer to God in its Malay-language edition. A judge in the three-member appeals court said use of "the word Allah is not an integral part of the faith in Christianity. ... The usage of the word will cause confusion in the community." Jesuit Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald, a Kuala Lumpur-based Catholic weekly, expressed disappointment in the ruling.

Martyrs' sainthood near

TARRAGONA, Spain — A Vatican official moved more than 500 Spanish Civil War martyrs closer to sainthood during a special beatification Mass in Tarragona, the archdiocese that suffered most under "the Red Terror." An estimated 20,000 people from throughout Spain as well as small contingents from Portugal and France attended a special outdoor Mass Oct. 13 celebrating the beatification of 522 members of Catholic religious orders as well as laypeople.

Catholic News Service

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