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March 10, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 5   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

African-American Heritage Month
ValLimar Jansen, a nationally known speaker and singer from Southern California, gives a reflection during a Feb. 26 service celebrating the annual African-American Heritage Month at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. The theme for the day was "This is Our Story." Nationally, the observance is called Black History Month.
Karen Callaway/Catholic New World, cns

Prayer at Ukraine border
An Orthodox clergyman prays next to armed servicemen near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in Ukraine's Crimean region on March 1. The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church said Ukrainians must be prepared "to sacrifice our lives in order to protect the sovereign, free, independent and unified state." Ukrainian-Russian ties have been tense since the Feb. 21 ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych after three months of protests by opposition groups. "Crimea's motto, inscribed on its coat of arms, is 'prosperity in unity.' Let us not forget this in such difficult times," said Auxiliary Bishop Jacek Pyl of Odessa-Simferopol, which includes Crimea.
Baz Ratner/Reuters, cns

Ugandans celebrate new law
Men carry signs in Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 24, as they celebrate a new anti-homosexuality law. Uganda's Catholic bishops reaffirmed their opposition to homosexuality, but reserved judgment on the bill, which imposes harsh punishment for homosexual acts.
Edward Echwalu/Reuters, cns

Married priest ordained in St. Louis
Father Wissam Akiki speaks to the congregation after being ordained to the priesthood Feb. 27 at St. Raymond's Maronite Cathedral in St. Louis. Father Akiki, who has a wife and daughter, is the first married man to be ordained a priest for the U.S. Maronite Catholic Church.
Lisa Johnston/St. Louis Review,cns

Preserve marriage

WASHINGTON — Marriage needs "to be preserved and strengthened, not redefined," San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said Feb. 28 in support of the State Marriage Defense Act of 2014, introduced into the U.S. Senate by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. "Every just effort to stand for the unique meaning of marriage is worthy of support," the archbishop said in a letter to Cruz. The archbishop, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, sent a similar letter in January to U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, when he introduced a companion bill in the House Jan. 9. Archbishop Cordileone urged the U.S. Senate to pass the measure, saying it is necessary to keep the federal government from circumventing state laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Moreover, a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution "would secure in law throughout the country the basic truth known to reason that marriage is the union of one man and one woman," said Archbishop Cordileone in a Feb. 19 letter, wherein he urged the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Marriage Protection Amendment, a joint resolution sponsored by Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., and introduced last August.

Housing laws overturned

WASHINGTON — Two municipalities that tried to make it illegal for people who lack legal immigration status to rent housing were rebuffed March 3 by the Supreme Court. Without comment, the court let stand lower court rulings that blocked ordinances in Farmers Branch, Texas, and Hazleton, Pennsylvania, that required scrutiny of the immigration status of applicants for rental housing, with harsh penalties for the tenants and landlords for renting to people who couldn't prove their legal status. Both laws were overturned as overstepping the boundaries of federal authority.

Major shift in view

WASHINGTON — American Catholics' opinions on same-sex marriage have changed dramatically in the last decade, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Public Religion and Research Institute in Washington. The survey, released Feb. 26, indicated that 58 percent of white Catholics and 56 percent of Hispanic Catholics now favor same-sex marriage. This is up 22 percentage points from 2003, when only 35 percent of Catholics overall supported same-sex marriage. Among American Catholics who said they attend Mass weekly, opinions were more divided, with 45 percent of Mass-going Catholics in favor of same-sex marriage. The Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage. Catholic teaching upholds the sanctity of traditional marriage as between one man and one woman. It also teaches that any sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin. Despite their support of same-sex marriage, a majority of American Catholics surveyed said they were aware that their view contradicted church teaching: 53 percent agreed that same-sex marriage went against their religious beliefs.

Settlements released

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Two U.S. archdioceses released details on the size of settlements made with victims of clergy sexual abuse. In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, net claims and litigation expense, not counting legal fees, for the one-year period ending last June 30 came to $3.95 million, according to an audit report issued Feb. 13 by the archdiocese. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in what church officials said was the last of its pending abuse lawsuits, reached a $13 million agreement with 17 clergy sexual abuse victims in mid-February, shortly before the scheduled start of a trial over lawsuits involving alleged acts of then-Father Nicolas Aguilar-Rivera, a visiting priest from Mexico who police believe molested more than two dozen boys in 1987.

High rate of Bible illiteracy

WASHINGTON — In a recent class at Wheaton College, English professor Leland Ryken asked his students what John Milton was referring to when he mentioned "the broad way" in one of his sonnets. Not one student in the class of 35 at the Rev. Billy Graham's alma mater acknowledged it as a reference to the broad path of destruction in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. "There's no reason for anyone to be surprised at the extent of biblical illiteracy in the general population," Ryken said in an email to Catholic News Service. "The Bible has been systematically excised from the curriculum in public education and from culture generally." As part of its "Pass it On" campaign, the British Bible Society released a study showing many British citizens could not identify certain Bible stories, going as far to say 43 percent of children had never heard the story of the Crucifixion. This trend, however, is not exclusively British. Ryken said biblical literacy "is only marginally better" in the United States.

— Catholic News Service


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