MARCH 29, 2004





Boston to close churches
to ease financial losses

BOSTON (RNS) – The Archdiocese of Boston is preparing to close about 25 percent of the region’s parishes. In response to Archbishop Sean O’Malley’s request, teams of priests and parishioners from across eastern Massachusetts recommended the names of 90 parishes for closure. If accepted by regional vicars, more than a quarter of the archdiocese’s 357 parishes would shutter in coming months.

In explanation, Archbishop O’Malley emphasized that no savings from parish closures would go to fund the $85 million abuse settlements, which will be covered instead by insurance and proceeds from the sale of the archbishop’s mansion. The archbishop told viewers last month on Boston Catholic Television that parishes must close to keep the church viable in the future. The archdiocese owes $37 million to the Knights of Columbus and is running a $4 million annual deficit.

Americans unhappy with moral climate
NEW YORK (RNS) – An annual Gallup Poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans are dissatisfied with the country’s moral and ethical climate. Pollsters say the “fairly dim view” on American morality was likely influenced by corporate scandals involving Enron and Martha Stewart, Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl halftime show and increasing attention paid to gay marriage.

Cosmologist wins Templeton Prize

NEW YORK (RNS) – George F.R. Ellis, a South African cosmologist and mathematician who is equally at home in the realm of social criticism and political activism, is the winner of the 2004 Templeton Prize, arguably the most prestigious award for advancing understanding of religion and spirituality. Ellis, a Quaker whose work on the origins of the universe have won him great scientific acclaim and whose anti-apartheid writings won him the ire and condemnation of South Africa’s white-minority government during the 1970s and 1980s, becomes the 34th Templeton laureate. Ellis, who will receive more than $1.4 million, plans to donate some of the prize money to projects supporting the education of black youths in Cape Town, South Africa.

Episcopalians defy bishop on confirmation
FAIRLAWN, Ohio – Six Episcopal congregations unhappy with Bishop J. Clark Grew II’s support of the election and consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire broke church protocol and brought in retired bishops from outside the diocese to conduct a confirmation service. They secretly planned the service and held it in an Orthodox church so that Bishop Grew could not stop it and so they could not be accused of having held an improper service in an Episcopal Church.

Terrorism fight must include human rights
GENEVA (AP) – Top European officials told the 53-nation U.N. Human Rights Commission March 15 that global efforts to battle terrorism must avoid trampling on human rights standards. Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, speaking for the European Union, told the commission that all governments had a duty to protect their citizens from terrorist attack and to combat terrorism in all its forms, but that “the fight against terrorism must be conducted in full respect of human rights.”

Archdiocese posts names of accused priests

CHICAGO (AP) – The Archdiocese of Chicago has launched a Web site that allows people to research whether one of its priests has been accused of sexual misconduct with children. Victims groups, however, criticized the project, saying it discourages users by requiring them to reveal their names and reasons for their inquiries.

The Web site is part of a settlement in October in which the archdiocese agreed to provide information on 55 priests involved in 140 credible cases of sexual abuse in the last 50 years. Archdiocese spokesman Jim Dwyer defended the policy of requiring users’ names, saying it will discourage people from compiling lists of priests accused of crimes and publicizing them. The Web site requires users to complete a form giving their name, address and reason for the request. Users also must list the priest’s name, where he was assigned and when.

Diocese seeks protection
for New Mexico mesa

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) – The Diocese of Las Cruces has asked New Mexico’s senior U.S. senator to help protect Otero Mesa from impacts of oil and gas drilling.

“Of particular concern is the sacrifice of long-term sustainability for short-term control of the limited gas resources of Otero Mesa,” Bishop Ricardo Ramirez said in a recent letter to Republican Sen. Pete Domenici. In his letter, the bishop said a careful study of the Christian faith leads to an inescapable conclusion that changes are needed in the way people approach the environment.

Opponents have criticized the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s plan for the mesa, saying it falls far short of what is needed to protect fragile and biologically rich Chihuahuan Desert grasslands. Oil and gas representatives argue the restrictions in the BLM plan, which covers 5 million acres of federal land in Otero and Sierra counties, might hamper development.

Vatican concerned over
arrest of Chinese bishop

VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Vatican is calling on the Beijing government to make public charges against a Catholic bishop arrested by Chinese authorities. Bishop Wei Jingyi, 45, was seized March 5 at a highway toll booth after traveling to the provincial capital, Harbin, to meet two “foreign friends.”

“The Holy See has no reason to doubt the innocence of the prelate,” Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said. Bishop Wei, ordained a bishop in 1995, has already served two terms in Chinese labor camps, from 1987 to 1989 and 1990 to 1992. His most recent arrest was in September 2002. According to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, there are about six Roman Catholic bishops and 20 priests in Chinese prisons.

Woman professor has highest
Vatican ranking

VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope John Paul II has appointed Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor, to serve as president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, making her the highest ranking lay woman in the Vatican.

Glendon, 65, who teaches and writes on human rights, comparative constitutional law and legal theory, has been a member of the academy founded by the pope in 1994 to advise the Vatican on social concerns and promote research aimed at improving society. She led the Vatican delegation to the Fourth U.N. Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1995, the first woman to hold such a post. Married and the mother of three, Glendon is Learned Hand professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a member of President Bush’s
Council on Bioethics.

Lack of priests means fewer Irish Masses

LONDON (RNS) – Parishes in the Diocese of Limerick have been asked to work out how many Sunday Masses they should have and when. In his Lenten pastoral letter, Bishop Donal Murray pointed out that one effect of the decline in vocations to the priesthood could be that some places where Masses had been celebrated for centuries might no longer have a regular Sunday Mass.

“More importantly, we must address this question in order to ensure that the number and times of Masses are such as to foster the most reverent and most worthy celebration,” he wrote.


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