MARCH 8, 2004





Church rededicated after teen abused there
MILWAUKEE (AP) – A church where a man was sexually abused as a teen more than 30 years ago went through a rededication ceremony at the victim’s request Feb. 29, to cleanse the brick building of sin.

The ceremony also provided a chance for Michael Sneesby and other victims of clergy abuse to reclaim the church and their religious faith. “This is something I’ve wanted for a long time,” said Sneesby, 47, his voice shaking as he stood in front of the altar at St. Augustine Catholic Church. “I lost part of my childhood,” he said. “But he could not take God or my faith away from me.”

Sneesby identified Father Frederick Bistricky as the priest who abused him. He said he was abused numerous times, including an incident inside the church. Last year church officials declared that the abuse of Sneesby had been substantiated, although the now retired priest has said he would continue to challenge allegations against him.

Canon law holds that a rededication is needed when sacred spaces are desecrated by acts that are “gravely injurious.” Archbishop Timothy Dolan approved the rededication after meeting Sneesby last fall. About 50 people attended the ceremony performed by Father Tom Wittliff, the parish’s current priest.

Scottish bishops criticize report on curbing STDs
LONDON (RNS) – Proposals from a panel set up by the Scottish government aimed at curbing sexually transmitted diseases and teen-age pregnancies have been strongly criticized by Scotland’s Catholic bishops.

The bishops’ commission for doctrine and unity published a seven-page critique March 1, saying the proposals were marked by “a certain laxity of terminology and failure properly to define key concepts” such as respect, equality, inclusion, diversity and sexual well-being. It also described the proposed strategy as “too dismissive of abstinence and lifelong fidelity which are the only sure ways to avoid sexually transmitted infections or unwanted pregnancy.”

Pope upholds presence of religion in society
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Declaring that symbols of personal and collective faith cannot be “erased” from society, Pope John Paul II on Feb. 27 upheld the right of religion to have a “visible presence” in European life.

“The participation of Christians in public life, the visible presence of the Catholic Church and of other religious confessions do not put the principle of secularity or the prerogatives of the state in question,” said the pontiff who spoke at an audience with a group of bishops from France where a government ban on the wearing of head scarves by Muslim girls attending state schools has caused heated controversy.

African churches might create Christian bank
NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) – African churches are looking for ways to become more financially independent from their counterparts in the rich nations of the West while still forging a strong ecumenical movement on the continent, according to leaders from the All Africa Conference of Churches and a number of national church councils.

One way to do that might be the establishment of a Christian bank in Africa. “This could be directed to provide affordable and accessible services and a range of quality services to the ecumenical movement, as well as to other sectors of Africa’s economy,” said Bright Mawudor, director of finances for the AACC.

Muslim activist sues Pope, cardinal
ROME (AP) – A Muslim activist has sued the pope, a top cardinal and other church officials, claiming their comments about the superiority of Christianity violated the Italian constitution which proclaims that all religions are equal under the law.

Adel Smith cited a passage of the pope’s 1994 book, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” in which the pope writes that the “richness of God’s self-revelation” in the Bible’s Old and New Testament’s has been “set aside” in Islam.
He. Smith, who is president of the Muslim Union of Italy, is seeking a court condemnation of the comments but no monetary or other punitive damages.

Pope says Christian unity is ‘indispensable’
VATICAN CITY (AP) – Working to bring unity among Christians is Pope John Paul II’s “indispensable mission,” the pontiff said Feb. 22, a day after the Vatican stated it was paying serious attention to Russian Orthodox complaints on Catholic-Orthodox relations.

Overcoming divisions among Christians has been a main goal of Pope John Paul II’s papacy. His determination has been put to the test on several fronts, especially by heightened tensions between Catholics and Orthodox in former Soviet bloc countries after the downfall of communism.

African Catholics add to U.S. Church
UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio (RNS) – Black Catholics in the United States are seeing their ranks increased by an influx of African Catholics, according to Father Cyprian Davis, a Benedictine monk and Catholic historian. He said African Catholics, many of whom are well-educated, will be able to teach young American blacks that “education is not just a white man’s ploy” and is crucial to their advancement in society.

Father Davis said there are about 300 African-American priests in the United States. The number of African priests who have come into the country is double that. He also cited a growing number of African nuns entering the United States.

Ossuary figure accused of antiquities fraud
JERUSALEM (RNS) – Israeli police are publicly accusing Oded Golan, the antiquities collector who claimed to have the James ossuary – the burial box of Jesus’ brother – in his possession, of leading an international counterfeiting ring that they say has been selling fake “antiquities” to private collectors and museums for more than a decade.

But police have filed no formal criminal charges against Golan and he has continued to insist on his innocence.

Leaders thank Bush for marriage amendment
WASHINGTON (RNS) – More than 70 American religious leaders have signed a letter thanking President Bush for endorsing a proposed federal amendment banning gay marriage. Bush announced his support Feb. 24 for a constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to heterosexual couples but give states the freedom to legalize gay civil unions. Versions of a proposed amendment have been introduced in both houses of Congress.

Signatories include evangelist Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; and Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell.

Poll: Americans want cleanup in entertainment

NEW YORK (RNS) – Three-quarters of Americans think the entertainment industry needs to reduce the amount of sex and violence in movies, television and music, according to a recent Gallup Poll. Most Americans said they are offended by the sex, violence and profanity in entertainment, and 75 percent said the industry should make a serious effort to reduce offensive images.


Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.